An Ex Post Facto Study: The Impact of Faculty and Institutional Characteristics on Student Retention

An Ex Post Facto Study: The Impact of Faculty and Institutional Characteristics on Student Retention

Author: 
Raquel Pesce
Program of study: 
Ph.D./HEA
Abstract: 
Faculty and institutional characteristics play an integral role in the postsecondary atmosphere affecting student retention. Leaders in higher education should be knowledgeable about the types of academic and nonacademic support, levels of satisfaction, and programs to assist students in remaining enrolled through graduation. The purpose of this quantitative ex post facto study was to compare students’ intent to persist to the next academic year based on faculty and institutional characteristics, using archival data collected from first-year students in multiple institutions. The population was the set of archival data about first-year, full-time students from public, 4-year universities in the United States. The analyses revealed significant differences existed for students’ intent to persist to the next academic year based on their levels of satisfaction with faculty, first-year programs, and availability of campus social activities. Significant differences were also found for students’ intent to persist to the next academic year based on their feelings of isolation from college campus life, viewing themselves as part of the college campus community, perceptions of faculty interest in academic problems, and the amount of emotional support received from faculty. No statistically significant difference was found between students’ intent to persist and the amount of contact with faculty outside of class or office hours. The results of this study may be applicable and useful for campus administrators and leaders seeking to increase student persistence, support services, and the level of satisfaction among students.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my family. A special thank you is extended to my husband Paul, for his constant words of encouragement, support, and sacrifices throughout this journey. You continually reminded me that I could accomplish this life goal and took care of many other areas in our lives to allow me the time to dedicate to my program. You also helped me handle the stress, hard work, and countless hours of studying that were necessary to complete this goal. Thank you to my children, Matthew, Derek, Alexandria, Verona, and RJ, for your love, patience, and all the hugs given to support me during this process. I also want to thank my mother, Ann, for believing in my ability to succeed and sacrificing for so many years to ensure I received a college education. This study is also dedicated in loving memory to my father, Ralph. He always knew that one day I would be a doctor and was so proud of all my accomplishments. Thank you for the wisdom and guidance you instilled in me to achieve this accomplishment. I know you are celebrating and watching over me from above. I also want to say thank you to my mother-in-law and father-in-law for reading many drafts of my dissertation and providing input and direction along the way. I am humbled by the love and patience of my entire family throughout this journey. I could not have achieved this doctoral degree without your help.
Acknowledgements: 
I would like to acknowledge and extend my sincere gratitude to the many people who have been a part of this journey with me. I acknowledge my dissertation chair, Dr. Dale Crowe, for the continued support, guidance, and words of wisdom that he provided to me. Your expertise, feedback, and dedication throughout the entire process allowed me to successfully complete this lifelong dream. Your advice and willingness extended well beyond the scope of mentor, and I want you to know how much you are appreciated. When a committee member was needed toward the end of the process, Dr. Crowe stepped in and found a colleague that was willing to serve on my committee. I will always remember the quotes you gave and thoughtfulness used in every aspect of the process. I acknowledge my committee members Dr. Keri Heitner and Dr. Robert Amason for your direction, knowledge, and experiences throughout this process. The feedback you provided allowed me to reach a higher level of learning and reflection while inspiring me to succeed. I also would like to thank Dr. Amason for stepping in at the last minute as a member of my committee. I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Kevin Eagan from HERI and UCLA for the communication and guidance you provided to me from the initial stages of my dissertation. I also acknowledge my family, faculty members, friends, colleagues, and fellow classmates. I am forever grateful to each one of you for the unique contributions you made to my pursuit of this degree.