Understanding the Impact of Academic Entry Characteristics, Remediation Requirements, and Semester Course Hour Load in the First Year on the Academic Performance and Persistence to Graduation for Latino Students
Rhoden, Brenda Joy
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College access and student success, defined as timely college graduation, remains a key goal for many Texas policymakers (Braxton, Doyle, Hartley, Hirschy, Jones, & McLendon, 2014; Closing the Gaps, 2013). Texas ranks second only to California to its population of Latinos (Vega & Martinez, 2012); how Latinos persist to college graduation in Texas is representative of the Latino undergraduate experience nationwide, including potential issues and challenges. Further, how institutions of higher education address Latino student needs and assist in paving their pathway through college helps establish best practices for the entire nation. As institutions of higher education remain one of the primary vehicles for overcoming social and economic inequalities in the United States (Carey, 2004; Vega & Martinez, 2012), high quality experiences and educational accessibility (as well as affordability) at public universities is essential for Latinos to achieve economic growth and social mobility. The purpose of this study is to advance the understanding of undergraduate Latino student persistence by analyzing a variety of pre-college variables, as well as college attendance behaviors and academic achievement from a research university located in Southeast Texas, which will be known as Central South University. This study will follow the Latino population of the entering class of first-time in college freshmen to Central South University for fall 2003 and track them until summer 2009. Academic entry characteristics, along with remediation requirements, and semester credit hour load will be utilized to ascertain effect on institutional first-year grade point average (GPA) as well as likelihood of persistence to graduation for Latino students. The following research questions will be addressed: 1. Among Latino students, how do academic entry characteristics such as SAT score, high school GPA, and high school class rank, along with remediation requirements (mathematics, reading, and/or writing) and semester credit hour load impact institutional first-year GPA? 2. Among Latino students, how do academic entry characteristics such as SAT score, high school GPA, and high school class rank, along with remediation requirements (mathematics, reading, and/or writing) and semester credit hour load predict the likelihood of persistence to graduation? Two regression analyses were conducted in order to identify how the relative contributions of predictor variables (gender, SAT score, high school GPA, high school class rank, college remediation requirements, and semester credit hour load) contribute to academic performance in the first year and student persistence to graduation within 6 years. Specifically, a multiple hierarchical linear regression was utilized to answer the first research question (academic performance measured by institutional grade point average at the conclusion of the first year) and a hierarchical logistic regression was utilized to answer the second research question (persistence measured by graduation from Central South University by summer 2009). The multiple hierarchical linear regression analysis confirmed that the demographic of gender had no predictive value on academic achievement at the conclusion of the first year, while both high school characteristics (SAT score, high school rank, and high school GPA) and semester course hour load had moderate predictive value (16.5% and 31.8%, respectively) at a statistically significant level [F (7) = 42.95, p<.001]. The hierarchical logistic regression analysis confirmed that a full model with semester course hour load had a moderate predictive value (16.4-22.5%) with percentage accuracy in classification of 69.2% at a statistically significant level [F (5) = 65.18, p < .001]. This study showed little predictive power for the remediation required variable in either analysis; however, this is understandable since less than 12% of the Latino population was designated for required remediation coursework. Further studies could explore impact of scholarships on persistence to graduation and semester course hour load (enrollment intensity) as well as major choice and federal financial aid eligibility.