Theoretical models designed to predict whether students will persist or not have been valuable tools for retention efforts relative to the creation of services in academic and student affairs. Some of the early models attempted to explain and measure factors in the college dropout process. For example, in his seminal work, Tinto defined retention as a longitudinal process incorporating both the academic potential of the student and institutional social systems, thus creating a directional model based on continual variance in social commitments that influence academic performance. Others expanded the earlier theoretical models to test the predictive capabilities of these models using logistical regression and structural equation modeling to project college retention rates. As public sectors push for performance-based accountability in federal and state agencies, higher education funding becomes directly linked to academic performance. Critics of performance-based accountability in higher education contend that these funding structures undermine the mission of the university system and negatively impact retention in higher education. As Astin suggested, the structure of the American college system is a great deal more complex than the elementary concept of supply side economics. Additionally, due to globalization and aggressive progress in information technology, a shift from labor-intensive, information-age economies to a knowledge-based economy has created competing forces between academic and social integration in retention efforts. As intensity increases toward developing global knowledge-based economies, latent functions providing the framework for the process of learning (social integration, social control, and social change) give way to the manifest functions that reduce education to a process in which individuals merely collect information for future dissemination. Decades of research indicate that the role of education is not merely transmission of information. Higher education prompts progressive social changes that are augmented not only by dissemination of knowledge but also by the interconnectedness of the college experience, socialization process, and discovery of self in terms of place. A new conceptual model, grounded in classical sociological theory, is necessary to accommodate a knowledge-based economy. Universities must incorporate protective factors that generate a resilient environment for student learning, adaptation, and retention. Expanding the retention models of Spady and Tinto enhances the predictability of conceptual models for a new paradigm that fully recognizes the relationships among external factors (national and educational climate), internal factors (institutional culture and climate), and adaptive factors (sense of place) that effect voluntary dropout decisions in higher education.


Education | Higher Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences