Does Student Involvement Increase Retention and Graduation Rates?

1818 words (7 pages) Essay in Education

18/05/20 Education Reference this

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Does Student Involvement Increases Retention and Graduation Rates (MICRO PAPER)


In the current era of the higher education system, there are many organizations and individuals who have attempted to implement policies and strategies to increase retention rates, help students be successful, and help students graduate from their higher education institutions. According Duffin (2019), as of 2017 there were nearly 15 million students who were enrolled in public colleges, and 5 million students who were enrolled in private institutions in the United States. Yet, 33 percent of students drop out of college after their freshman year, and less than 60 percent of students are able to graduate within 6 years. Retention rates are low. This is a problem for students, and for the higher education system.

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Many scholars, theorists, education practitioners, activists, advocates, and researcher have conducted a great deal of studies on various topics related to retention and graduation at the collegian level. One particular topic that has been widely discussed and debated is the influence that student involvement or student engagement has on retention and graduation rates for college students. According to Foreman and Retallick (2012), there has been more than 20 years of studies on the influence of student involvement, student organizations, college athletics, and so forth has on retention and graduation rates. This document will review prior scholarly works pertaining to different types of student involvement, and analyze the influence that each has on success, retention, and graduation rates in order to determine if student activities and student involvement is beneficial, and to determine what types of student organization encourage retention and graduation.

Definition of Student Involvement

Student involvement, and student engagement are broad concepts. Sagenmuller (2018) suggests that student involvement is act of a student being involvement in any purposeful activity.  Quaye and Harper (2010) defines student engagement as student’s willingness to participate in activities inside and outside of the classroom. It includes the manner in which the college/university as an institution designs programs for learning and development opportunities. The leaders of the school, educators, faculty, and students establish different on-campus organizations such as athletic programs, religious groups, academic and educational organizations, community service organizations, political and multicultural organizations, student government organizations, and so forth in order to keep students involved. Every college has different student organizations that encourages student involvement as it has become an integral component of the educational process.

Influence Student Involvement has on Success, Retention, and Graduation Rates


Service learning occurs when an institution allows community service experiences to be used as an educational experience for their students. According to Lucy-Bouler and Lucy-Bouler (2012) many colleges/universities have implemented programs and projects that allow their students to connect with the community and create a learning experience from their connections. These service learning projects can be included in any program or activity which requires the students to volunteer within the community. Students are able to align learning objectives with community goals. Typically colleges allow their students to complete a project or presentation for assessment of their learning experiences.

Many scholars have made claim that service learning opportunities can help in the efforts of retaining and graduation students. In a study conducted by Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, and Yee (2002), there was collected from more than 22,000 students from various college/universities all over the U.S. The students were followed from their freshman year to their senior year of college from 1994 to 1998. 30 percent of the students participated in service learning programs. These students demonstrated a higher level of academics, retention rates, self-efficacy, are displayed greater leadership skills. The student’s also had more opportunities as they were building networks with many entities and individuals outside of their college. According to a study by Axsom and Piland (1999), students in an English course at Southwestern College who participated in service learning had significantly better grades in the English course, and reported being better prepared for their future academic endeavors.

Mungo (2017) claims that retaining and graduating students of color is a major problem in the U.S., as African Americans have low graduation rates. “At four-year institutions, black men completed their degrees at the lowest rate” (Tate, 2017). The implementation of service-learning was found to have a significant positive impact on student’s grade point averages, retention rates, and graduation rates for African American students, and all other demographics. According to a study conducted by Mungo (2017), Asian students who were involved in service learning graduation rates increased nearly 20%, African American student increased 12%, White students increased 11%, and all other students increased 12%. Their grade point averages increased by .294 as well (Mungo, 2017). As service learning increases retention and graduation rates, it is helping to decrease the retention and graduation gaps amongst different racial and ethnic groups.


 College athletes have always had a high graduation rate compared to their peers, however they are current graduating at a higher rate than ever. According to Hosick (2018) the graduation rates for college athletes have increased from 75% in Division I sports to 88% as of 2018. These rates are congruent with Division II and Division III athletes as well.  Cooper and Hall (2016) disagrees with this notion that college athletics helps to increase graduation rates. Black males are overrepresented in football and basketball collegian sports. These are the two sports that generate the largest revenue within the NCAA, however these are the sports with the lowest graduation rates (Cooper & Hall, 2016). Gayles (2015) agrees that academic performance of college athletes has been an issue, and is the primary reason why eligibility standards have become requirement for players.

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Although college student-athletes have high graduation overall; the rates do not tell the whole story. Dilley-Knoles, Burnett, and Peak (2010) claim that many college athletes do not have the adequate skills necessary for academic success in college because they have dedicated their lives to their athletic abilities. Many student-athletes do not have enough a sufficient amount of time allotted for studying because their main focus in on being an athlete. There are many scholars who believe that college athletes are earning degrees, but these degrees are not earned. According to a study by New (2015), college athletes in many Division I programs are taking easier courses and earning lower grades than non-athletes. Simons, Bosworth, Fujita, and Jensen (2007) conducted a study which concluded that athletes were perceived to receive special treatment from faculty and staff, which is a reason why retention and graduation rates are higher for student-athletes in comparison to non-student athletes.

Extracurricular and Student Organizations

A student organizations is a group that is managed and maintained by students, but overseen by the institution. The purpose of a student organization is to support the goals and mission of the institution, but also to provide students with an opportunity to engage, learn, and associate with others in in pursuit of a common purpose or goal. Many scholars and experts on the subject believe that student organizations help increase retention and graduation rates because like-minded students are working together and motivating each other.

Racial, ethnic, and religious student organizations are a specific type of organization that has brought about an increase in retention and graduation rates. According to Rood and Sriram (2014), students in these organizations have a sense of belonging. This is the reason many intuitions have a multicultural or diversity center on their campuses. The level in which students feel comfortable with their peers and their surroundings influences their retention rates and graduation rates, which is why many institutions advocate fraternity and sorority organizations. According to Chambers and Walpole (2017), fraternity and sorority members have a significantly higher grade point average than non-fraternity or non-sorority members. This is because of the principles, standards, and requirements to be initiated in these organizations. There is also a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood that is established within these fraternal organizations.

Students who are actively involved in student organization become connect with their institutions (Rood & Sriram, 2014).  Extracurricular organizations bring the students and the faculty together. Students are able are developing from adolescent into adults as they are communicating with different people, on different boards, experiencing different positions within their organizations, and so forth.


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