Transfer Student Retention & Adjustment

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Facing the Giants:
Transfer Student Retention
and Adjustment
Presented by Dr. Eric Gumm
[email protected]
Agenda For This Session
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Need for this study
Conceptual Framework & Methodology
Research Questions & Data Analysis
Major Findings
Implications of the Study
Recommendations for Practice
Additional Research Suggestions
Questions and discussion
Need for the Study
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With more students desiring to transfer, there is
a significant need for information regarding
transferring and its effects on students.
This conference and so many people’s interest in
this area is a strong reflection of that need!
Before interventions can be created to assist
transfer students, we must have a clearer
understanding of transfer student transition
(Flaga, 2002).
Need for the Study
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An exploration of both Academic and Social
integration was necessary to understand the
experiences of transfer students (Harrison,
1999).
Several sources pointed to the need for studies
to counterbalance those in large, public
universities by looking at private universities
(Cejda, 1999, 2000; Cejda & Kaylor, 1997; Townsend,
1995; Walter, 2000)
Need for the Study
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Woosley (2005) noted that transfer students also
tend to have a lower retention rate than
freshmen students (10% lower on average).
Conceptual Framework
Tinto’s (1993) “Theory of Student Departure.”
Conceptual Framework
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This model presents a dual framework of both
academic and social systems into which the student is
to integrate.
Tinto’s model is the most widely used to examine
student transition and attrition, with over 775 citations
(Braxton, Hirschy, and McClendon, 2004; Pascarella and
Terenzini, 2005).
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It was especially relevant to this study because
residential universities are exactly the type of insitutions
this model is most reliable in studying (Robbins, et al,
2004; Tinto, 1998).
Methodology
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Two data sources:
Transfer Student Experiences Survey (a 70-item
questionnaire)
 Official university records for enrollment and grade
point average
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Three participating private universities:
Institution A with 1,400 students (50 transfers)
 Institution B with 4,700 students (140 transfers)
 Institution C with 14,000 students (400 transfers)
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Methodology
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Student sample included all students who:
Transferred there in the Fall of 2005
 Had at least 12 credit hours of transfer work
 Had graduated from high school before January 1,
2005
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The survey instrument was sent by mail and
email to all of the students in the sample.
Methodology
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The final population for this study included 603
transfer students at the three universities.
After multiple rounds of follow-up and
reminder, completed surveys were received from
348 of the 603 transfer students – an overall
response rate of 58%.
Research Questions
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The primary research problem or question was: What variables
predict transfer students’ successful persistence and transition
experience during their first semester at Christian universities?
Two specific questions which flowed out of this overarching
research question:
1.
2.
After controlling for statistically significant pre-enrollment variables, were
academic integration, social integration, goal and institutional commitment, or spiritual
integration significant predictors of transfer students’ first semester to
second semester persistence at these Christian institutions of higher
education?
What demographic, previous institution and current university factors
affected the transfer students’ successful academic and social adjustment
to these Christian universities?
Data Analysis
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Chi-square and t-tests were utilized to examine
the relationships between the twenty preenrollment variables and the outcome variable
of persistence.
Logistic regression was then utilized to examine
the impact of the predictor variables on the
student’s persistence at the same institution.
Data Analysis
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Linear regression was then utilized to determine
which variables significantly affected the
academic and social adjustment of this
population of transfer students.
Major Findings
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Pre-enrollment variables
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Only one was significant (at the p<.05 level) with regard to
student persistence – Highest Degree Planned at the Current
Institution.
The logistic regression analysis examined each of the
three main constructs in Tinto’s Longitudinal Model of
Student Departure:
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Academic Integration
Social Integration
Goal and Institutional Commitments
Major Findings
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Academic Integration
This construct was not found to be predictive of
transfer student persistence in this study.
 This is somewhat surprising considering the general
support for the impact of this construct (Liu & Liu,
2000; Pascarella & Terenzeni, 1983, 2005; Thomas,
2000).
 However, others have seen that social integration is
initially more important than academic integration
(Tinto, 1997, 2000; Woodley, 2003).
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Major Findings
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Social Integration
This construct was found to be predictive of
transfer student persistence in this study.
 Specifically the “Student Interaction with Peers”
variable was predicitive at the p<.05 level.
 This same conclusion has been affirmed in a large
number of other studies (Tinto, 1997, 2000; Elkins,
Braxton and James, 2000; Woosley, 2003).
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Major Findings
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Goal and Institutional Commitments
This construct was also found to be predictive of
transfer student persistence in this study.
 When utilizing the Goal and Institutional
Commitment construct, the logistic regression
equation correctly classified 95.8% of these transfer
students into the correct persister or non-persister
categories.
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Major Findings
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Spiritual Integration
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In the development of this study, an affirmation was
expected of Morris’ (2003) finding that Spiritual Integration
would be a significant predictor of persistence.
Therefore, the most surprising finding of this study, for the
researcher, was its lack of significance.
While Walter (2000) and Schreiner (2000) also indicated the
predictive abilities of Spiritual Integration, all of these
previous studies examined freshmen, not transfer students.
Major Findings
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Academic Adjustment
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Three significant variables:
Student’s fall grade point average
 The student’s most significant reason for selecting this
institution
 Their family income level
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These three variables accounted for 45% of the
variation
Major Findings
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Social Adjustment
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Three significant variables:
Student’s fall grade point average
 Highest educational level attained by the student’s mother
 The student’s most significant reason for selecting this
institution
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These three variables accounted for 41% of the
variation
Implications of the Study
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Most Significant Reason for Attending
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The transfer student’s most significant reason for attending
their new institution has a significant impact on their
academic and social adjustment.
As a result, universities should take steps to shape those
reasons for attending through the recruiting process.
Universities should also attempt to determine the reasons
from their incoming transfer students in order to effectively
connect the students to the institution.
Implications of the Study
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New Student Orientation
This study indicated that a sizeable population of
transfer students did not attend an orientation
program at their new institution.
 This limits the ability of the university to set
academic and social expectations for these students.
 As a result, universities should create intentional
programming for transfer students to encourage
their attendance at orientation programs to assist in
their academic and social adjustment.
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Implications of the Study
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Fall grade point average
The student’s fall GPA accounted for the largest
portion of both academic and social adjustment of
new transfer students.
 As a result, universities need to utilize strategies to
determine how students are performing academically
before the end of the semester and provide
intervention and assistance for those who are
struggling.
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Recommendations for Practice
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Usual qualifier – this study examined student
experiences at three specific institutions and it
can’t be quickly generalized to other institutions.
However, there are relevant questions and areas
of investigation that deserve consideration.
Three areas of recommendation:
Campus Foundations
 Transition Experiences
 Continuing Support
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Recommendations for Practice
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Campus Foundations
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Intentionally connect the transfer student’s goals to the
university early in the recruiting process.
Establish on-going, intentional efforts to ascertain the
actual needs of transfer students, as a separate and distinct
group from freshmen.
One way to do so is to designate a position to serve as a
coordinator for transfer students or, based on the
tremendous growth and success of First-Year Experience
programs in their work to integrate and retain first-year
students (Upcraft, Gardner, & Barefoot, 2005), universities
could establish a similar effort focused on transfer students.
Recommendations for Practice
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Transition Experiences
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Universities should provide at least some separate and
focused programming for transfer students during their
orientation programs. These sessions should address the
specific transition needs and concerns of transfer students.
Transfer orientation sessions should be led by student
leaders with an emphasis on creating community and
proving opportunities for social integration, since those are
such crucial components to retaining these students.
Ideally, these student leaders would have themselves been
transfer students so that they could serve as successful role
models for the new transfer students.
Recommendations for Practice
Continuing Support
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All transfer students should be assigned a faculty “mentor” through
their department who should connect with them at the start of their
first semester in order to provide a connection between the student’s
goals, their academic program, and the institution.
Additionally, some type of “mentor” from the current upperclassmen
in the transfer student’s major should be assigned and they could
provide social, academic, and goal and institutional commitment
connections.
Since the student’s Fall GPA accounted for the largest portion of the
academic and social adjustment, the university should utilize mid-term
grades to determine how new transfer students are doing in their
classes and provide intervention for those who are struggling.
Additional Research Suggestions
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While this study has added to the conversation regarding
transfer student retention, more research is needed in this area
in order to confirm the findings of this study and to provide a
clearer picture of those factors which influence the
experiences of transfer students, especially at Christian
universities.
In future research studies in this area, recruiting or obtaining a
more evenly distributed group of students who did and did
not choose to return should be a priority.
A national study of transfer student persistence at Christian
universities would add a great deal to this area of research.
Additional Research Suggestions
4.
5.
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Future research could examine this idea and select a transfer
student population that has been at the Christian university for
a longer period of time before being surveyed.
Further research is needed to see if the Spiritual Integration
construct is significant in Christian universities, especially
among transfer students at these institutions.
The Academic Adjustment and Social Adjustment findings
need examination in additional studies to further confirm the
impact of the significant variables. Also, while these variables
predicted a significant portion of the variance (45% and 41%
respectively), further research should attempt to determine
which variables account for the remaining variance.
Concluding Comments
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Student retention is a complex and complicated
area of consideration, but its importance is
undeniable.
The retention of transfer students is often
overlooked at many universities, but this is an
important student population.
Student retention ultimately comes down to the
decisions of individual students to leave or stay
at a particular institution.
Concluding Comments
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The student’s seemingly simple departure
decision has tremendous impact.
It is my hope that this study will help Christian
universities have a clearer picture of their
transfer students and those factors which most
influence their retention.
I also hope this study will contribute to the
continuing discussions regarding the needs of
transfer students at all of our institutions.
Discussion, Questions,
Comments ???
Thank You!
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