EDA 790 Assignment 2: Quantitative Research (problem of late dropout from college)

The statistical research of the higher education in the United States is usually focused on the graduation level after six years of study and on the general college attendance rate. Although, the statistics and research do not cover all aspects of life during college. A peculiar thing is that only the first and early years of study undergo investigation.

It is traditionally considered that the majority of those students who are not able to cope with the program or do not feel that they have chosen the right path understand it during the first two years of college experience and decide to drop out. The reasons that push college students to study hard during their first years include the evident desire to create a good image of themselves, enthusiasm to learn more and aspirations for professionalism. However, it is impossible to finish every course just based on enthusiasm and desire to be praised. Many students quit college with low grades even when only one year is left. It is crucial to understand what makes the students study less and drop out when the graduation is very proximate.

For these reasons, it might be helpful to create a more detailed description of the issue in order to improve the understanding of the situation concerning the graduation level and late dropping out in order to divide the periods when the students decide to quit their higher education. The lack of research concerning these issues in higher education provides a good opportunity for investigation. The analysis of the factors that make college students stop their education, for example, after four years of studying, might be helpful for the further improvement of the college policy and overall educational level.

It is possible to assume that there is a number of external economic and social factors that lead to the decreased graduation rate and as the result to the high dropout rate. The most evident and widespread reason is the fact students have to find work and support their families due to the unexpected financial difficulties and inability to combine work and study. Nevertheless, the situation might be more complicated than it seems. According to the existing information, the majority of the students who drop out after four years of studying in the college are not forced to do so by external factors. The reasons are not always clear and consist of a combination of personal factors, such as the wrong choice of the major, social problems, or claims that the college does not provide the needed knowledge (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005, pp. 35-37).

The problem of late dropout rate is worth researching due to the lacking information on this issue. It occurs rarely in practice, but it does not decrease the importance of the students’ personal problems and does not justify the lack of attention to the question from educational specialists. It is considered that with time the interests of college students change from establishing social connections with peers to deeper academic involvement. That is why it is possible to assume that if late dropout rate is high in college, then students have faced two serious problems. The first one is the psychological climate in the educational institution that does not allow them to be fully involved in academic research. Secondly, the level of education does not satisfy the needs and expectations of the particular student whose attendance rate has been sufficient not to drop out during the first years of studying (Knight, 2004, p. 37). Both variants suppose that colleges require certain reforms, which make the subject worth researching.

In addition, it is impossible to ignore the tendency to extend the time for studying in the colleges, which has been existing for the past 30 years. According to the recent surveys, the majority of modern students tend to extend their time for the completion of the college courses as compared to the situation that has been considered normal 30 years ago. Adelman (2006, p. 56) writes that in 1988 mostly all students graduated from college in five academic years. In 1990, only 39.9% of students graduated without taking a break or dropout (Knight, 2004, p. 11). In the beginning of 2000s, the average time to complete the undergraduate courses extended to 6.5 years (Knight, 2004, p. 18). The tendency became evident and even the federal government could not ignore it. The length of college graduation and bachelor degree attainment was extended from four to six years during the last decade (Knight, 2004, p. 13).

It is possible to identify four main variables that might have caused the problem of high late dropout rate in college. First of all, it is crucial to investigate the demographic data, which provides some independent variables. Age, gender, ethnicity, and residential status are important in classifying the statistical data, because these factors make the survey more structured and logical. Secondly, the level of precollege education and graduation should be analyzed. The assessment includes SAT verbal and math scores as well as high school GPAs. Thirdly, it is important to pay attention to college experiences, which logically follow the high school stage. It includes the aggregate college GPA, the level of course load, attendance rate, the choice of major and possible changes of the major during the college years. The last variable that should be taken into consideration is the financial aid that the student has received, such as scholarships, grants or loans. Problems with covering tuition fees lead to dropping out even if the attendance rate is high and the overall desire of the student to graduate in time is strong (Stratton, O’Toole, & Wetzel, 2007, pp. 460-462).

Precollege and college experiences are the most important variables for measuring. They are directly related to the academic performance of the student, and for this reason should be analyzed attentively in the research. High school verbal and math STA and GPA scores reflect the level of education the student has at the moment of entering college, which is proportional to his/her further academic success. If the high school grades at the moment of graduation are low, the student has to work harder than his/her peers during the first years of college in order to attain equal results. The college experience is important for analyzing stress, desire to study and an ability to attain the set goals.

The demographic variables are not important in the current research. The data can be used only for statistical purposes. Ethnicity, gender and college entering age have no direct connection to the ability of college students to study and graduate in time. It is possible to claim that the problems with the educational process, the level of academic success and the ability of the student to adapt to the college community are not directly related to their demographic characteristics.

The research would be done on the basis of a public college in the United States. The sample size for the analysis will be 1000 people who have been studying in the college for at least four years. Such approach will exclude those students who are not sure about the choice of major, have already experienced difficulties with studying and have intellectual and organizational abilities to finish the course. The students would be divided into two major groups – those who managed to graduate, and those who have not graduated in six years. The latter group will be divided into two sub-groups, which consist of those who have extended their enrollment and those who have dropped out.

Lastly, there are two research questions in the current study to be analyzed. The first question aims at determining the key factors that would help college students to graduate without dropping out. The second question investigates the reasons that make students drop out from college after four and more years of studying.



Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.


Knight, W. E. (2004). Time-to-Bachelor’s degree attainment: An application of descriptive, bivariate, and multiple regression techniques. IR Applications, 2, 1-15.


Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Stratton, L. S., O’Toole, D. M., & Wetzel, J. N. (2007). Are the factors affecting dropout behavior related to initial enrollment intensity for college undergraduates? Research in Higher Education, 48(4), 453-485. doi:10.1007/s11162-006-9033-4

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