Research in Higher Education

, Volume 57, Issue 7, pp 823–844 | Cite as

Life Happens (Outside of College): Non-College Life-Events and Students’ Likelihood of Graduation

  • Bradley E. CoxEmail author
  • Robert D. Reason
  • Samantha Nix
  • Megan Gillman


Students’ lives outside of college can have dramatic effects on academic outcomes (e.g., grades, persistence, graduation). However, the manner in which students’ lives outside of college are referenced in college-effects models suggests some uncertainty among scholars as to which, and how, student experiences outside of an institution affect college student outcomes. Using longitudinal data from a racially diverse sample of 3914 students (997 White, 1051 Black, 915 Hispanic, and 951 Asian) attending 28 institutions, this study employs logistic regression models to examine relationships between three types of non-college life-events and students’ likelihood of graduation. Specifically, we examine the impact of financial disruptions, grieving a friend’s or family member’s death, and other family situations that likely cause psychological distress for students. Results suggest that major life-events are both common (i.e., affecting over 52 % of students) and consequential (i.e., negatively affecting graduation rates), thus warranting increased attention from researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners.


College students Graduation Non-college life-events Death Grieving Financial Psychological 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradley E. Cox
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert D. Reason
    • 2
  • Samantha Nix
    • 1
  • Megan Gillman
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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