INSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVITY AND INSTITUTIONAL EXPENDITURES: Examining Organizational Factors that Contribute to Retention and Graduation

Abstract

Many institutions of higher education increasingly are concerned with retention and graduation rates. Focusing on private Baccalaureate Liberal and General colleges and universities, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between institutional selectivity and institutional expenditures and retention and graduation rates. Framed by Berger’s (2001–2002) view that organizational behavior can impact student departure, this inquiry examined if expenditures for instruction, academic support, student services, facilities, institutional support, and institutional grants (i.e. student financial aid) could predict retention and graduation rates at baccalaureate-granting institutions. Institutional selectivity and institutional expenditures, specifically those that directly contributed to students’ academic integration, were found to contribute significantly to retention and graduation rates. Recommendations are suggested, including using the results to inform resource allocation strategies that can enhance retention and graduation rates.

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Correspondence to Ann M. Gansemer-Topf.

APPENDIX A: DEFINITIONS OF INDEPENDENT AND DEPENDENT VARIABLES

APPENDIX A: DEFINITIONS OF INDEPENDENT AND DEPENDENT VARIABLES

Independent Variables

Academic Support Expenditures. Expenditures for the support services that are an integral part of the institution’s primary mission of instruction, research, or public service. Includes expenditures of libraries, museums, galleries, audio/visual services, academic computing support, ancillary support, academic administration, personnel development, and course and curriculum development (NCES, 2002b, p. 12).

Institutional Grants. Amount awarded to students from restricted and unrestricted institutional resources for the purpose of student aid, such as scholarships or fellowships funded by gifts or endowment return (NCES, 2002b, p. 7).

Institutional Selectivity Ratings: Degree of admissions competitiveness. Ratings factor in incoming students’ average median entrance examination scores (e.g. SAT/ACT), high school rank, high school grade point average and the percentage of applicants who were accepted (Barron’s, 2000).

Institutional Support. Expenditures for the day-to-day operational support of the institution, excluding expenditures for physical plant operations. Includes general administrative services, executive direction and planning, legal and fiscal operations, and public relations/development (NCES, 2002b, p. 12).

Instruction Expenditures. Expenditures of the colleges, schools, departments, and other instructional divisions of the institution and expenditures for departmental research and public service that are not separately budgeted. General academic instruction, vocational instruction, special session instruction, community education, preparatory and adult basic education, and remedial and tutorial instruction conducted by the teaching faculty for the institution’s students (NCES, 2002b, p. 11).

Student Services. Funds expended for admissions, registrar activities, and activities whose primary purpose is to contribute to students’ emotional and physical well-being and to their intellectual, cultural, and social development outside the context of the formal instructional program (NCES, 2002b, p. 12).

Dependent Variables

First-Year Retention Rate. First-year retention rates are commonly computed as a percentage. It is calculated by taking the total number of first-year students who returned their second year at a specific institution divided by the total number of the same group of students at the institution who started their first year. (US News, 2003).

6-year Graduation Rates. Percentage of freshmen who graduated within a six-year period. (Note: This excludes transfers into the school) (US News, 2003).

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Gansemer-Topf, A.M., Schuh, J.H. INSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVITY AND INSTITUTIONAL EXPENDITURES: Examining Organizational Factors that Contribute to Retention and Graduation. Res High Educ 47, 613–642 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-006-9009-4

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KEY WORDS:

  • higher education
  • finance
  • retention
  • graduation
  • small colleges