Friday, May 24, 2019

UTSA researchers study retention, success among undergraduate students

UTSA researchers study retention, success among undergraduate students

(Nov. 5, 2018) -- Researchers from the College of Education and Human Development, the College of Business, and the UTSA Office of Institutional Effectiveness recently published a study that examined the factors that predict retention, persistence, and academic success among UTSA undergraduate students.

Felicia Castro-Villarreal, Norma Guerra, and Jeremy Sullivan from the Department of Educational Psychology, along with Daniel Sass from the Department of Management Science and Statistics, and Steve Wilkerson from the UTSA Office of Institutional Effectiveness, studied the importance of various traditional and psychosocial factors that impact student success.

These factors, which include socioeconomic status, problem-solving, connectedness to professors and college, grade point average, and standardized testing scores, were tested with 445 UTSA undergraduate students to help the researchers develop a model that can be used by universities to maximize student retention efforts.

“The overarching goal for this interdisciplinary and collaborative project was to identify the factors important to UTSA undergraduate student persistence, retention, and graduation,” said Castro-Villarreal. “To achieve this goal, our research team developed a survey that included traditional predictor variables, and we uniquely added psychosocial variables including academic efficacy, problem solving, and connectedness to professors and college in our models as well.”

The researchers found that, while problem solving and connectedness to professors and college were important to student persistence and retention, there is no simple solution or model that is applicable across all colleges and universities.

“Several of the variables in our theoretical model had not been examined before nor had this model been proposed, so this new scholarship gives UTSA a different way of looking at retention,” said Sass. “This is especially the case when it comes to professor and college connectedness which has not been examined in this way and was ultimately associated with students’ intent to remain enrolled.”

Recently, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy launched the UTSA Student Success Task Force and Classroom to Career Student Success Initiative in an effort to cultivate student success and retention efforts across campus.

“The larger UT System and UTSA administration have been prioritizing undergraduate retention and timely graduation, so we felt it was important to learn and understand what university factors may predict success,” said Sullivan. “We also know that identifying the factors important to student persistence and retention can help us develop data-driven, applied programs for supporting these outcomes and perhaps the university could use the identified factors to improve student outcomes.”

The researchers hope to continue examining undergraduate student retention with UTSA students in order to refine their student retention model and find ways to support and invest in student success.

 “We hope that the UTSA administration, policy makers, stakeholders, and educational leaders continue to look to the literature to drive programming,” said Guerra. “We also hope to keep undergraduate student persistence and retention a priority as job markets continue to grow in competitiveness and as we continue to strive for educational equity and to close achievement gaps.”

The study was published in The Review of Higher Education, a top research journal in the field of higher education.

- Jo Ann Jones


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