Voluntary engagement and college retention : does the type of engagement predict retention for different types of students?
Coley, Sarah Louise
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The current study examined whether voluntary engagement activities are associated with increased student retention rates at college to a subsequent semester. It was theorized that this association would owe to engagement enhancing the ostensible value of students' college experience. Additionally, another theoretical idea was examined: Specific activities may be particularly beneficial for specific types of students. For example, students may have certain motivational needs, such as those identified by self-determination theory (SDT; i.e., competency and belongingness). Fulfilling those needs through engagement may promote retention. For the current study, student record data and student self-report data were sampled from a Midwestern university. Overall, it was anticipated that retention rates would be highest for students who engaged in activities that best addressed their SDT-related needs. Results were different than hypothesized, such that only competency-based engagement activities, but not belongingness-based activities, were associated with students' likelihood of retention. However, small samples of students engaged in belongingness-based activities might have affected results. Furthermore, it was theorized that commuter students' potentially lower retention rates, relative to residential students, would owe to the role conflict they may face. However, commuter students and residential student actually had similar retention rates, and there was evidence that residential students may face barriers of retention that are specific to them (even if they had engaged). To expound upon the results observed in the current study, additional exploratory analyses were conducted, and limitations were discussed.