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Monday, February 21, 2005

Today's contribution from the academy?

This paper is actually on an interesting topic and might have used a reasonable methodology. Unfortunately, the sample is drawn from one community college in an unspecified geographic area. Unfortunately the paper is only available for subscribers, but here is the abstract:


Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights

Institutions that allow late admission may be doing a disservice to students who have not adequately prepared for their transition to college. This research examined 785 admissions files of first-time, matriculated college freshmen at an open-access college. Data were collected regarding the demographics, characteristics, and academic performance of these students. Using Tinto's model of attrition as the framework, these data were analyzed to test the following hypotheses: 1) Students who apply late have different characteristics from students who apply earlier; 2) Students who apply late do not perform as well academically as students who apply earlier; and 3) Students who apply late are less likely to re-enroll the subsequent term. According to this research, late applicants exhibit different characteristics from students who apply earlier and have higher rates of attrition. These findings corroborate the high-risk profile for attrition in the professional and research literature.
This is not a surprising finding. Students who enroll late are what economists would consider "marginal" students, which doesn't measure quality , per se, but only that the students who register late are the last ones to register, i.e., they are the marginal regristrants.

Because these students decide to enroll late, it is likely that their net benefit to attending school is very nearly zero. Either the student is not prepared for college and therefore attending does not have a lot of value added relative to the cost of attending, or the student faces opportunity costs that might make the net benefit of attending college negative. For example, a student chooses to enroll late at community college and four weeks into the semester is offered a job for, say, $20 dollars per hour. That student might consider turning down the job as too great of an opportunity cost of attending college. Upshot? Student drops out of college and enters the work force.

This type of marginal decision is more common at the two-year schools because their students typically are looking for job training skills, as opposed to taking philosophy for philosophy's sake. The paper seems to confirm economic intuition that late enrollees would be drawn from a distinctly different population of potential students. However, without having access to the paper it is not clear whether the author recognizes that these differences are likely economic and not socially driven.
What is especially left unanswered from reading the abstract is what, exactly, the author's policy recommendations are.

I just happened to see your comments on my article. The research was conducted at the access college of the University of Cincinnati. I did consider economic issues both in this article and a previous qualitative article entitled "Forces that Influence Late-Admitted Students," though I also considered social/psychological variables. You can find my full dissertation with data on EBSCO Host "Last In, First Out: Is There a Relationship Between Late Application and Early Attribtion among First-Time College Freshmen?" As it turns out, the higher attrition rate was only associated with the younger students, not the non-trads. Motivation seemed to be the determining factor. With the non-trads, it was life circumstances that prevented them from applying earlier, not a lack of motivation.
Sorry...failed to mention that both articles are in the ERIC database.
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