Facing the Giants: Transfer Student Retention and Adjustment Presented by Dr. Eric Gumm [email protected] Agenda For This Session 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 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 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 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 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). 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 Two data sources: Transfer Student Experiences Survey (a 70-item questionnaire) Official university records for enrollment and grade point average 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) Methodology 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 The survey instrument was sent by mail and email to all of the students in the sample. Methodology 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 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 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 Linear regression was then utilized to determine which variables significantly affected the academic and social adjustment of this population of transfer students. Major Findings Pre-enrollment variables 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: Academic Integration Social Integration Goal and Institutional Commitments Major Findings 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). Major Findings 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). Major Findings 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. Major Findings Spiritual Integration 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 Academic Adjustment Three significant variables: Student’s fall grade point average The student’s most significant reason for selecting this institution Their family income level These three variables accounted for 45% of the variation Major Findings Social Adjustment 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 These three variables accounted for 41% of the variation Implications of the Study Most Significant Reason for Attending 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 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. Implications of the Study 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. Recommendations for Practice 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 Recommendations for Practice Campus Foundations 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 Transition Experiences 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 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 1. 2. 3. 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. 6. 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 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 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!