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Nontraditional Undergraduates / Persistence and Attainment of Nontraditional Students


Persistence and Attainment of Nontraditional Students


The 1994 followup of the Beginning Postsecondary Student (BPS) cohort provides the most up-to-date national assessment of how well nontraditional students persist in postsecondary education relative to their traditional peers. The BPS followup was conducted about 5 years after the cohort's initial enrollment in 1989-90. For this analysis, only students who specified a degree objective (bachelor's, associate's, or certificate) when they first enrolled were included. This was done to avoid confounding the attainment results with students whose intentions were only to take a few courses rather than to earn a degree.

The nontraditional status of the BPS participants was determined in 1989-90 when they were first-time, first-year students. Since many nontraditional students are returning to their postsecondary education, one would expect to see fewer nontraditional students in the BPS cohort than in the NPSAS surveys, which represent undergraduates at all levels regardless of whether they had ever enrolled in the past. This was found to be the case; among the 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students, 58 percent were nontraditional, compared with about two-thirds of the NPSAS participants who were at least minimally nontraditional (see figure 3). As shown in table 11, the prevalence of the seven nontraditional characteristics in the BPS cohort in 1989-90 was as follows: 36 percent were independent; 31 percent delayed enrollment; 27 percent worked full time at some point during their enrollment; 22 percent attended part time; 13 percent had children; 6 percent had a GED or high school certificate of completion; and 5 percent were single parents.

Status of Undergraduates 5 Years After Beginning

The overall results demonstrate an obvious negative association between degree attainment and the presence of any nontraditional characteristics (table 12). Overall, 43 percent of nontraditional undergraduates had attained some postsecondary credential by 1994, compared with about 64 percent of traditional undergraduates.

Even minimally nontraditional students were less likely than traditional students to attain a degree (52 percent versus 64 percent). They were also far more likely than traditional students to have left school without a degree and without re-enrolling (35 percent versus 22 percent).

While minimally nontraditional students were much less likely to attain their degree objective than their traditional counterparts, they fared better than did moderately or highly nontraditional students. That is, they were more likely to attain a degree than were moderately or highly nontraditional students (52 percent compared with 41 and 33 percent, respectively).

Table 11-Among 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students, the average number of nontraditional characteristics and the percentage of students with each characteristic, by all other nontraditional characteristics

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Average                                                                        GED/1
                                         number of                                           Enrolled               high school
                                        NT charac-                   Delayed        Work         part        Have    completion  Single
                                         teristics   Independent  enrollment   full time         time    children   certificate  parent
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Total                              1.4          36.2        31.1        27.3         21.6        13.1           6.3     5.1
Nontraditional status/2
   All nontraditional students                 2.4          64.6        55.4        48.7         39.1        23.6          11.3     9.2
      Minimally nontraditional                 1.0          29.2        12.3        43.1         21.3         0.0           0.0     0.0
      Moderately nontraditional                2.5          79.9        72.7        43.2         30.9        17.2          11.8     3.8
      Highly nontraditional                    4.5          98.7        99.6        63.8         72.8        67.3          28.3    29.1
Dependency status 1989-90
   Dependent                                   0.4            †          7.9        18.6         10.4         1.4           1.5     0.9
   Independent                                 3.1            †         71.2        42.7         42.6        34.3          15.0    13.0
Delayed enrollment
   Did not delay                               0.5          15.1          †         20.0         10.9         1.1           0.0     0.8
   Delayed                                     3.3          83.6          †         43.6         46.5        40.7          20.5    15.1
Employment while enrolled 1989-90
   Did not work full time                      0.9          28.3        23.9          †          13.6        11.1           6.3     5.0
   Worked full time                            2.7          56.2        49.2          †          42.6        19.0           6.7     5.5
Attendance status 1989-90
   Full-time                                   0.8          25.4        20.5        20.0           †          8.7           4.9     4.1
   Part-time                                   3.3          68.6        64.7        54.0           †         31.5           9.9     8.1
Number of children 1989-90
   None                                        0.9          26.7        20.8        25.5         16.9          †            3.4     0.0
   One or more                                 4.3          93.3        94.3        39.2         49.5          †           23.9    39.4
High school standing 1994
   High school diploma                         1.2          32.9        26.4        27.2         20.7        10.6            †      4.0
   GED or high school equivalent               4.1          85.0       100.0        28.5         35.7        51.5            †     22.3
Single parent status 1989-90
   Not a single parent                         1.2          32.3        27.0        27.2         20.6         8.3           4.9      †
   Single parent                               4.6          89.1        89.3        29.4         34.8       100.0          26.3      †
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

† Not applicable.

1/ GED refers to the General Education Development exam.

2/ Nontraditional status is based on the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics: minimal=1, moderate=2 or 3, and high=4 or more.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

Table 12-Percentage distribution of all 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students who had the intention of earning a degree according to their persistence and attainment, by nontraditional status

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         No degree       No degree
                                          Attained       attained,       attained,
                                               any        enrolled    not enrolled
                                            degree         in 1994         in 1994
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Total                             52.3            13.1            34.7
   Traditional                                63.8            14.1            22.1
   Nontraditional*                            43.3            12.2            44.5
      Minimally nontraditional                51.8            13.3            34.8
      Moderately nontraditional               40.6            10.9            48.5
      Highly nontraditional                   33.3            12.3            54.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Nontraditional status refers to the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics: minimal=1, moderate=2 or 3, high=4 or more. Nontraditional characteristics include delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent, working full time while enrolled, having children, being a single parent, or being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

NOTE: Details may not add to 100 percent due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

Persistence by Degree Objective

The BPS participants indicated their initial degree objective when they first enrolled in 1989-90, which is illustrated in Figure 6. They were subsequently tracked through their program

to see how they progressed toward that objective. If they did not attain their degree objective, it was determined whether they were still enrolled toward the degree in 1994, had left without attaining, or if they had changed their degree objective. Table 13 shows the status of the BPS cohort in the spring of 1994 for each degree attempted.

Among students who ever reported a bachelor's degree objective, about one in three nontraditional students (31 percent) had attained a degree within 5 years, while roughly half (54 percent) of traditional students had done so (table 13). Given the propensity of nontraditional students to attend part time, one might expect them to take longer to attain a degree than their traditional counterparts. If this were the case, a greater proportion of nontraditional students would be enrolled in 1994 compared with traditional students. But no such difference was found. The percentage of nontraditional and traditional students who sought a bachelor's degree and were still enrolled was similar (23 percent and 20 percent, respectively). Nontraditional students had either left completely without a degree (33 percent) or had changed their degree objective (13 percent) at higher rates than traditional students (19 percent and 7 percent, respectively).

Figure 6-Percentage of 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students who reported a degree objective, by their initial degree objective and traditional/nontraditional status when they first began postsecondary education

Figure 6
NOTE: Nontraditional status is based on the presence of one or more of seven possible nontraditional characteristics. These characteristics include delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent of parents, working full time while enrolled, having dependents, being a single parent, and being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1989-90 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:89/94), Data Analysis System.

Table 13-Percentage distribution of all 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students with a reported degree objective/1 according to their persistence and attainment of degree objective, by nontraditional status

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Did not attain degree objective
                                                        Enrolled           No change
                                        Attained   toward degree           in degree         Changed
                                          degree       objective      objective, not          degree
                                       objective         in 1994    enrolled in 1994     objective/2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Bachelor's degree objective
            Total                           44.5            21.2                24.7             9.6
   Traditional                              53.9            19.7                19.2             7.2
   Nontraditional/3                         31.3            23.2                32.5            12.9
      Minimally nontraditional              42.4            22.5                26.6             8.6
      Moderately nontraditional             16.9            25.4                40.7            17.0
      Highly nontraditional                 11.2            21.7                42.1            25.0
                                                 Associate's degree objective
            Total                           35.5             8.7                38.7            17.2
   Traditional                              53.4             8.4                22.4            15.8
   Nontraditional/3                         26.7             8.8                46.6            17.8
      Minimally nontraditional              37.2             5.8                35.3            21.7
      Moderately nontraditional             24.5             6.4                52.6            16.5
      Highly nontraditional                 15.6            16.0                54.0            14.4
                                    Vocational certificate objective
            Total                           55.8             4.5                31.0             8.7
   Traditional                              61.3             4.8                23.2            10.7
   Nontraditional/3                         54.0             4.4                33.5             8.1
      Minimally nontraditional              55.4             6.3                26.9            11.3
      Moderately nontraditional             56.6             6.4                28.7             8.4
      Highly nontraditional                 50.3             1.1                42.9             5.7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1/ Degree objective in this table refers to students who had ever had the specified degree objective. Therefore, it is possible for a student who changed objectives to appear more than once in the table. For example, a student with an initial objective of a bachelor's degree who changed his or her objective to an associate's would appear under "changed degree objective" in the bachelor's table and would also appear in the associate's group.

2/ May or may not be enrolled in 1994.

3/ Nontraditional status refers to the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics: minimal=1, moderate=2 or 3, high=4 or more. Nontraditional characteristics include delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent, working full time while enrolled, having children, being a single parent, or being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

NOTE: Details may not add to 100 percent due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

Among students seeking an associate's degree, traditional and nontraditional students exhibited patterns of persistence and attainment that were similar to those found for bachelor's degree seekers. Nontraditional students who sought an associate's degree were half as likely as their traditional counterparts to have attained their objective (27 percent versus 53 percent), and were twice as likely to have left school without either attaining a degree or changing their degree objective (47 percent versus 22 percent). However, among nontraditional students, there was an important distinction between students with an associate's degree objective and those seeking a bachelor's degree: associate's degree seekers were much more likely to have left school without a degree or changing their objective (47 percent) than were nontraditional bachelor's degree seekers (33 percent). In contrast, traditional students left school at similar rates regardless of their degree objective (19 percent seeking a bachelor's degree, and 22 percent with an associate's degree objective). It is possible that this reflects the tendency of nontraditional students to enroll in associate's degree programs for purposes of obtaining occupational skills through coursework, rather than specifically to earn a degree.

Among students whose educational goal was a vocational certificate, having nontraditional characteristics was not associated with overall persistence and attainment. For example, 54 percent of nontraditional students had attained a certificate, as had 61 percent of traditional students, a difference that is not statistically significant. Only the highly nontraditional group had rates of persistence that were lower than those of all others who sought certificates. Forty-three percent of these students left school without a credential compared with 27 to 29 percent of other nontraditional certificate seekers and 23 percent of traditional students.

When Do Students First Leave?

Knowing exactly when students leave school is important for designing programs to reduce nontraditional student attrition. In this analysis, students' first departure from their initial enrollment path (i.e., their "persistence track") was identified.[25] A departure from the persistence track was defined as an interruption in enrollment in one of three ways: a downward transfer (e.g., from a 4-year to a 2-year institution or from a 2-year to less-than-2-year institution); stopping out for more than 4 months and then returning to the same or higher level institution; or leaving without returning by 1994. The first column in table 14 shows the percentage of students who never departed from their initial persistence track. These students had either attained a degree or were still enrolled approximately 5 years after their initial enrollment.[26] For students who did depart from their persistence track, columns 2-5 show the year of their first departure.

[25] The concept of "persistence track" was first developed by C. Dennis Carroll in a study of how traditional students persist to their bachelor's degree. See C. D. Carroll, College Persistence and Degree Attainment for 1980 High School Graduates: Hazards for Transfers, Stopouts, and Part-timers (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1989).
[26] In most cases the degree attained is the initial degree objective. However, in the remote case of a student changing degree objectives with no enrollment interruption and attaining a degree from the same level of institution (such as a bachelor's degree seeker earning an associate's degree at a 4-year college), then it is possible that the degree attained was different from the initial objective.

Table 14-Percentage of 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students according to their enrollment continuity, by nontraditional status and initial degree objective

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Attained any
                                       degree or          Annual rates of attrition
                                  still enrolled      (first enrollment interruption)/2
                                         with no     First  Second    Third   Fourth year
                                  interruption/1      year    year     year      or later
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Total                           45.3      28.4    16.3     17.5           8.8
   Traditional                              56.8      16.2    12.2     14.8           8.8
   Nontraditional/3                         36.0      38.3    20.7     20.6           8.8
Initial degree objective/4
   Bachelor's degree                        52.3      19.1    12.5     17.3          10.8
      Traditional                           58.9      13.6    10.0     15.8          10.0
      Nontraditional/3                      42.3      27.2    17.0     20.1          12.4
                                                                  Third year or later
   Associate's degree                       32.2      39.2    24.0     30.5
      Traditional                           52.3      23.1    17.3     17.8
      Nontraditional/3                      23.1      46.4    28.7     40.0
   Certificate                              45.3      39.8    18.3      7.8
      Traditional                           52.3      23.1    23.2     11.5
      Nontraditional/3                      43.9      43.2    17.0     14.9
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1/ Had either attained a degree or were still enrolled in 1994 and had never had an enrollment interruption.

2/ An interruption is defined as leaving without returning, a downward transfer (e.g., 4-year to 2-year institution with or without an interruption), or a period of interruption of more than 4 months (stopout) and then returning to the same level or higher institution. It is possible for some students who had an interruption to have returned and either attained or still be enrolled. The percentages represent annual rates (i.e. base includes only students still enrolled at the beginning of the year).

3/ Nontraditional status refers to the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics including delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent, working full time while enrolled, having children, being a single parent, or being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

4/ It is possible that the degree attained was not the initial objective. For example if a student initially had a BA objective but earned an AA and had no enrollment interruption (defined in footnote 2), that student would appear in column 1 under bachelor's degree objective.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

It is clear from this table that nontraditional students are most at risk to depart from their persistence track in their first year. In fact, nontraditional students were just as likely to depart in their first year as they were to persist or attain a degree over the five year period (36 percent and 38 percent, respectively). In contrast, traditional students were far more likely to remain on their persistence track than they were to depart in their first year (57 percent and 16 percent, respectively).

While nontraditional students were more than twice as likely as traditional students to depart from their persistence track in their first year (16 percent versus 38 percent), the gap in attrition between the two groups closed considerably once they reached their second year (figure 7). Taking degree objective into account, the attrition of nontraditional students seeking a bachelor's degree was higher than their traditional counterparts until the fourth year, but the gap continued to close over time. Among certificate seekers (most of whom are in programs lasting no longer than one year), there was no difference in attrition between traditional and nontraditional students after the first year. For associate degree seekers, on the other hand, the gap in attrition rates between traditional and nontraditional students did not close after the second year.

The persistence and timing of students' departure relative to their initial degree objective is shown as a distribution in figure 8. Viewed from this perspective, it is very obvious that nontraditional students whose initial degree objective was an associate's degree were about twice as likely to depart in their first year as they were to stay on their persistence track (46 percent compared with 23 percent). The opposite was true for nontraditional students seeking a bachelor's degree: 27 percent left in their first year, while 42 percent persisted. It should be noted however, that nontraditional students seeking an associate's degree were far more likely to be highly nontraditional and less likely to be minimally nontraditional when compared to their counterparts pursuing a bachelor's degree.[27]

[27] For example, nearly one-third of nontraditional students seeking an associate degree were highly nontraditional, compared with 11 percent of those with a bachelor's degree objective (BPS:90/94 Data Analysis System).

How Do They Leave?

If students leave their persistence track, it is instructive to determine how traditional students' methods of departure differ from those of nontraditional students. As noted above, types of departure included any downward transfer (e.g., from a 4-year to a 2-year institution); stopping out for more than 4 months but then returning to the same or higher level institution; or leaving without returning by 1994. Given nontraditional students' family and work responsibilities, one might expect them to stop out more frequently than their traditional peers. But this did not appear to be the case, at least within 5 years of students' initial enrollment (table 15).

Traditional and nontraditional leavers had similar rates of stopping out (28 and 26 percent, respectively). About half of nontraditional leavers departed without returning by 1994 (47 percent), compared with about one-third of traditional leavers. Traditional leavers, on the other hand, were more likely to experience a downward transfer than their nontraditional counterparts (40 percent compared with 27 percent).

Figure 7-Percentage of 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students according to the year they first interrupted their enrollment, by nontraditional status and initial degree objective

Figure 7

1/ Represents the percentage of students who departed in that year among students still enrolled at the beginning of the year. An interruption is defined as leaving without returning, a downward transfer (e.g., 4-year to 2-year institution with or without an interruption), or a period of interruption of more than 4 months (stopout) and then returning to the same level or higher institution. It is possible for some students who had an interruption to have returned and either attained or still be enrolled.

2/ Nontraditional status (in the chart's legend) refers to the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics including delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent, working full time while enrolled, having children, being a single parent, or being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

Figure 8-Percentage of 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students according to their enrollment continuity 5 years after beginning (as of 1994), by nontraditional status and initial degree objective

Figure 8a

Figure 8b

Figure 8c

1/ Had either attained a degree or were still enrolled in 1994 and had never had an enrollment interruption. It is possible that the degree attained was not the original objective. For example if a student has a BA objective but earned an AA and had no enrollment interruption (defined in footnote 2), that student would be classified as persisted under bachelor's degree objective.

2/ "Left" is defined as leaving without returning, a downward transfer (e.g., 4-year to 2-year institution with or without an interruption), or a period of interruption of more than 4 months (stopout) and then returning to the same or higher level of institution. It is possible for some students who had an interruption to have returned and either attained or still be enrolled.

3/ Nontraditional status is based on the presence of one or more of seven possible nontraditional characteristics. These characteristics include delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent of parents, working full time while enrolled, having dependents, being a single parent, and being a recipient of a GED or a high school completion certificate.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1989-90 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:89/94), Data Analysis System.

Table 15-Among 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students who had the intention of earning a degree and interrupted their enrollment, the percentage distribution according to type of first interruption, by initial degree objective

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Downward              Left without
                                   transfer/1   Stopout/2        return
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
            Total                        31.4        26.4          42.3
   Traditional                           39.6        28.0          32.4
   Nontraditional/3                      27.1        25.5          47.4
Bachelor's degree objective              38.3        30.5          31.3
   Traditional                           41.5        31.5          27.0
   Nontraditional/3                      34.8        29.4          35.8
Associate's degree objective             28.9        25.0          46.1
   Traditional                           37.3        22.9          39.8
   Nontraditional/3                      26.6        25.5          47.8
Certificate objective                    17.5        17.9          64.5
   Traditional                           28.1        11.8          60.0
   Nontraditional/3                      15.8        19.0          65.3
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

1/ Transferred to an institution with a shorter maximum degree offering (e.g., from a 4-year to a 2-year institution) with or without an interruption of enrollment.

2/ Left school for a period of 4 months or more and then returned to the same level of institution.

3/ Nontraditional status refers to the presence of one or more nontraditional characteristics: minimal=1, moderate=2 or 3, high=4 or more. Nontraditional characteristics include delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, being independent, working full time while enrolled, having children, being a single parent, or being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94).

Relative to their initial degree objective, students who initially sought a bachelor's degree exhibited similar differences as those found for all leavers. That is, nontraditional and traditional bachelor's degree seekers had similar stopout rates, while those who were nontraditional were more likely to leave without returning by 1994. There were no statistically significant differences between traditional and nontraditional leavers with either an associate's degree or certificate objective with regard to how they interrupted their initial enrollment.

Influence of Individual Nontraditional Characteristics on Persistence and Attainment

As illustrated in Table 11, nontraditional students often have multiple nontraditional characteristics. For example, students who attended part time in their first year of enrollment had an average of 3.3 nontraditional characteristics. In order to measure the influence of a single variable on persistence and attainment, one must control for the effects of related variables. In this analysis, a weighted least squares regression model was used to measure how each nontraditional characteristic affected persistence and attainment. In the model, the dependent variable is defined as the proportion of undergraduates who had attained any degree (regardless of objective) or who were still enrolled at the time of the 1994 follow-up survey. The independent variables included the seven nontraditional characteristics and the following background and institutional variables: gender, race-ethnicity, socioeconomic status, institution control (public; private, not-for-profit; and private, for-profit), and institutional level (less-than-2-year, 2-year, and 4-year). The regression coefficients were subsequently used to adjust the original estimates of persistence and attainment, taking into account the joint effects of all the independent variables (see appendix B for methodology details).

The results are displayed in Table 16. The original (unadjusted) estimates of the proportion of students who had attained or persisted as of 1994 are in the first column, and the adjusted percentages after controlling for the variation of all other variables are in the second. Asterisks in the these columns identify cases in which the percentage of students in a given category who had attained or persisted is significantly different from the percentage of the reference group (always the last category for each characteristic). For example, part-time enrollment (unadjusted) was associated with lower rates of persistence and attainment compared with full-time enrollment (49 percent compared with 72 percent). This pattern held even after controlling for all other characteristics in the model (58 percent compared with 67 percent, adjusted).

The initial negative associations with persistence and attainment found for several other nontraditional characteristics also remained after controlling for the variation of other variables. These included delaying enrollment, being financially independent, and having a GED or high school certificate of completion.

The initial negative impact on persistence and attainment of the remaining three nontraditional characteristics-working full time in a student's first year of enrollment, having children, or being a single parent-is no longer directly apparent once all other variables are held constant. However, these three characteristics may be indirectly related to persistence and attainment by virtue of the fact that students who work full time, have children, or are single parents are far more likely to attend part time or delay their enrollment than their counterparts (see table 11). The enrollment options of attending part time and delaying enrollment, in turn, have a significant negative effect on persistence and attainment.[28]

[28] A way to test for these indirect effects is to determine whether each of the three characteristics in question significantly affect the likelihood of part-time enrollment or delayed enrollment using regression models where these outcomes are the dependent variables. The results of these models indicated that both working full time and having children had significant effects on part-time and delayed enrollment, but this was not true for single parents. It is possible that the motivation and commitment required for single parents just to enroll in postsecondary education helps to mitigate the potential barriers they face in progressing toward and attaining their educational goals.

Table 16-Percentage of 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students with a degree objective who attained any degree or were still enrolled in 1994, and the adjusted percentage after taking into account the covariation of the variables listed in the table/1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Unadjusted        Adjusted             WLS      Standard
                                             percentage/2    percentage/3   coefficient/4       error/5
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Total                                   65.2*           65.2*           0.742         0.021
Timing of enrollment entry
   Delayed enrollment                               48.5*           59.0*          -0.091          0.03
   Did not delay                                    72.9*           68.1*              †             †
Attendance status 1989-90
   Part-time                                        48.6*           57.7*          -0.096         0.031
   Full-time                                        71.6*           67.3*              †             †
Dependency status 1989-90
   Independent                                      50.9*           59.6*          -0.088         0.026
   Dependent                                        74.2*           68.4*              †             †
Employment status 1989-90
   Worked full time while enrolled                  55.9*           62.9*          -0.032          0.02
   Did not work full time                           69.2*           66.1*              †             †
Number of children 1989-90
   One or more                                      49.1*           70.1*           0.056         0.035
   None                                             68.0*           64.5*              †             †
Single parent status 1989-90
   Single parent                                    49.8*            61.78         -0.036         0.044
   Not a single parent                              67.0*            65.42             †             †
High school diploma or equivalent
   GED or certificate of completion/6               40.9*           51.3*          -0.148         0.039
   High school diploma                              67.0*           66.1*              †             †
Institution level 1989-90
   Less-than-2-year                                 65.5*           71.6*           0.024          0.05
   2-year institution                               55.2*           60.1*          -0.091          0.03
   4-year                                           75.6*           69.2*              †             †
Institution control 1989-90
   Private, not-for-profit                          77.9*           68.6*           0.046         0.026
   Private, for-profit                              62.7*           68.6*           0.046         0.042
   Public                                           62.8*           64.0*              †             †
Gender
   Female                                           66.4*           66.8*           0.034         0.015
   Male                                             64.0*           63.4*              †             †
Race-ethnicity
   American Indian/Alaskan Native                   76.9*           82.5*           0.176         0.094
   Asian/Pacific Islander                           77.0*           76.5*           0.116         0.041
   Black, non-Hispanic                              54.9*           56.4*          -0.085         0.034
   Hispanic                                         65.7*           72.2*           0.073         0.038
   White, non-Hispanic                              65.9*           64.9*              †             †
Socioeconomic status 1989-90
   Low quartile                                     49.1*           60.6*          -0.037         0.029
   High quartile                                    74.1*           67.8*           0.035          0.02
   Middle quartiles                                 62.3*           64.3*              †             †
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* p < .05.

† Not applicable for the reference group.

1/ The last group in each category is the reference group being compared.

2/ The estimates are from the BPS:90/94 Data Analysis Systems.

3/ The percentages are adjusted for differences associated with other variables in the table (see appendix B).

4/ Weighted least squares (WLS) coefficient (see appendix B).

5/ Standard error of WLS coefficient, adjusted for design effect (see appendix B).

6/ GED refers to the General Education Development or high school equivalency tests.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Study, Second Followup (BPS:90/94), Data Analysis System.

The model also reveals some interesting findings related to student background characteristics. For example, even though the adjusted percentages changed little, women were significantly more likely than men to persist or attain only after controlling for the other variables in the model. This may be related to the fact that women are more likely to be independent,[29] and once this covariation was controlled for, women fared slightly better than men. A similar explanation is possible for the change in significance for the persistence and attainment of Asian/Pacific Islander students as compared with their white counterparts. Asian/Pacific Islander students were more likely than white, non-Hispanic students to be in the lowest socioeconomic status quartile (and low SES students are less likely to persist than those at higher SES levels).[30] However, once SES was controlled for, Asian/Pacific Islanders' persistence and attainment rates were significantly higher than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.

[29] About 29 percent of women were independent students, compared with 22 percent of men. See Berkner et al., Descriptive Summary of 1989-90 Beginning Postsecondary Students.
[30] About 22 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students, compared with 12 percent of white students are in the lowest SES quartile. See Berkner et al., Descriptive Summary of 1989-90 Beginning Postsecondary Students.

Not surprisingly, given the higher attrition rates of students with associate's degree objectives relative to those with bachelor's degree objectives, students attending 2-year institutions were less likely to persist or attain than those in 4-year institutions, even after controlling for all other variables. Once other variables were held constant, however, students attending less-than-2-year institutions had similar rates of persistence and attainment as those in 4-year institutions. This may be related to the fact that students in less-than-2-year institutions are much more likely to be from low SES backgrounds than those in 4-year institutions,[31] and once SES was controlled for, the persistence and attainment rates no longer differed among students in the two types of institutions. The reduction in the adjusted persistence and attainment rates for students in private, not-for-profit institutions may have been similarly affected in the opposite way. That is, private, not-for-profit institutions have a higher proportion of high SES students than do public institutions,[32] and once SES was controlled for the persistence and attainment of students in these institutions declined.

[31] One-third of students attending less-than-2-year institutions were low SES, compared with 7 percent of students in 4-year institutions (BPS:90/94 Data Analysis System).
[32] 58 percent of students in private, not-for-profit institutions were high SES, compared with 39 percent in public institutions (BPS:90/94 Data Analysis System).

Finally, after controlling for the variation of all other variables included in the model, the adjusted persistence and attainment rates for high and low SES students were no longer significantly different from middle SES students. Thus, it appears that SES per se is not directly influencing persistence and attainment; rather, it seems to be related to a number of other characteristics (such as delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, independence, and so on), which in turn negatively affect persistence and attainment.



[Trends in Nontraditional Student Enrollment] Previous Table of Contents Next[Summary and Conclusions]

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education