Why college students drop out: It’s only partially about psychology

February 21, 2011 at 8:19 am 10 comments

I’m working with Amy Bruckman and Klara Benda on a paper describing the results of a study that Klara did of students taking on-line CS courses.  Klara points out in her review of the literature that most retention/attrition models focus on psychological factors, e.g., having appropriate background knowledge, motivation, and metacognitive skills like planning.  But the factors that appear in empirical studies of students who drop out, especially in on-line classes, emphasize sociological factors, like changes in job and residence situations, changes in financial status, and family pressures.  That’s certainly what Klara found in her study of on-line CS students, and those same issues are echoed in this MSU study.

Depression, a loss of financial aid, increased tuition, unexpected bad grades and roommate conflicts are among key risk factors that lead college students to drop out, according to a study led by Michigan State University researchers.

Not so influential: a death in the family, failure to get their intended major, a significant injury and addiction.

“Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college,” Tim Pleskac, an MSU assistant professor of psychology and the lead researcher, said in a news release this afternoon.

via Study pinpoints why college students drop out | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.

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