Factors predicting undergraduate success and persistence at a doctoral research university

A. Bruce Chamberlin, University of Pennsylvania


Early departure from higher education results in a loss of human capital, economic productivity and personal attainment. This study focuses on the persistence/departure decisions of students within four successive classes at a Carnegie classified "Doctoral Research University-Extensive" enrolled as full-time, residential, undergraduate students. All students were originally from the university's local area. These cohorts collectively constitute a panel study framework; four class cohorts are examined over twelve semesters each (including summer semesters). Time-constant and time-varying effects of independent variables are examined as related to persistence, paying particular attention to a student's duration of study and propensity to dropout. This longitudinal study employs Survival Analysis (Cox Regression) to identify the relationship between student characteristics and persistence over time. Independent variables include academic and demographic characteristics, time-varying covariates, and event-descriptive variables. While performance in secondary school, SAT-composite score, race and gender (amongst other factors) inform the model, the only variable of significance proved to be a student's academic achievement in relation to his/her class and division peers. This ratio (student cumulative g.p.a./division cumulative g.p.a.) held high significance and offers an early warning mechanism of increased risk. Survival analysis is presented as an effective methodological approach in the study of student attrition. Recommendations are outlined to better inform academic advising for students at increased risk. The findings of this study further the knowledge of student persistence and hold relevancy to future persistence and retention studies at the host university and other competitive admission institutions of a similar Carnegie classification.

Subject Area

Higher education|Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Chamberlin, A. Bruce, "Factors predicting undergraduate success and persistence at a doctoral research university" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3227714.