Assessing factors influencing student success at Mississippi's public universities as measured by bachelor's degree completion
Pruett, Christian David
AdvisorAdams, H. James
Retention and matriculation are topics of heavy debate and inquiry in higher education as rising tuition costs, coupled with declining state support, have fueled the need for increased accountability. In Mississippi, few studies have been conducted that are unique to the public universities in the state in order to analyze success factors in higher education. The purpose of this study was to analyze these success factors at Mississippi’s public universities as measured by successful degree completion within a six-year time period. This study analyzed High School GPA, ACT Scores, Parental Income Levels, Parental Education Levels, Ethnicity, and Gender. Academic, demographic and socioeconomic data were gathered on two cohorts of resident first-time, full-time students attending a Mississippi Institution of Higher Learning. A total of 5,603 students were included in the study from the fall 2001 and 2002 semesters. Transfer students were not included in the study. A successful completer was defined as completing a bachelor’s degree within six-years of enrollment. Students still enrolled in the seventh year were not included. In addition, students seeking an Associate’s Degree were also not included. Descriptive statistics revealed that graduation rates fluctuated depending on high school GPA, ACT scores, income and parental education levels. The most significant differences in graduation rates occurred when analyzing high school GPA and income statistics. These findings were supported when logistic regression analysis was employed. Logistic regression analysis was used to analyze these factors compared to graduation rates for the state, and by type of institution. In Mississippi, there are four regional universities and four research universities. High school GPA and parental income were significant predictors in all three models, while ACT was significant when analyzing data for the system. For research universities, the education level of the father was significant. For regional universities, ethnicity was a significant predictor. In all, universities should develop a deeper understanding of the socioeconomic background of students in order to ensure that proper scaffolding is in place to ensure successful matriculation.