The research in this dissertation examines the factors associated with student success in college. While the three studies explore students enrolled at both the undergraduate and graduate level, unifying the research included herein is an effort to expand our understanding of college success beyond the traditional measures employed in the existing higher education literature. Examining three cohorts of first-year undergraduates enrolled at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities during the 1999-2001 fall semesters (n=15,496), the first study considers the consequences of limiting our interpretation of student success to include only graduation from the institution of first-entry. Recognizing that a non-trivial number of students depart the University but continue on to completion at a different institution, a measure of multi-institutional student success is developed using data from the National Student Clearinghouse. A methodological exploration is then provided to assess the different statistical approaches suitable for accommodating the expanded completion outcomes. This methodological approach illustrates that our understanding of undergraduate student success changes when the definition of student success is expanded to include graduation beyond the institution of first-entry. The second study revisits the multi-institutional measure of undergraduate completion developed in the first study with a particular interest in assessing the potential relationship between financial aid awards and a student's educational trajectory. Following a single cohort of first-year students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (n=5,188) and incorporating institutional data related to the financial aid awards posted to a student's financial account, this study explores and finds that the type of aid awarded to a student is associated with their decision to either persist, transfer, or drop out of college. Results suggest differential effect based on the type of financial aid type with loan aid appearing to work against an institution's retention and completion goals by encouraging students to search out alternative institutions or drop out of college entirely. The third study changes venues and explores success at the doctoral level. Using two-years of completion data on successful doctoral students (n=787), this study develops a measure of doctoral success that considers the postcompletion plans and employment type of students and attempts to discern to what extent individual- and program-level variables affect the occupational choices of successful students. Results suggest experiences of students in graduate education are associated with certain aspects of their postcompletion plans and occupational choices; however, when it comes to producing future faculty members, program-level effects are associated with the likelihood of obtaining a tenure-track position.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2014. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Darwin Hendel. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 194 pages, appendix A.
White, Daniel R..
Success is what we make it: using multinomial logit modelling to explore expanded definitions of student success for undergraduate and graduate students.
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