The purpose of this paper is to comprehensively explore the association between low self-control and college student retention.
Cross-sectional survey data were obtained from 369 undergraduate students in the USA and combined with follow-up data on retention. Factor analysis was used to develop and validate the abbreviated eight-item low self-control instrument. Propensity score matching, an analytic technique that permits the assertion of causality without the need for experimental design, was used to examine the relationship between low self-control and second-semester college retention. Use of propensity score matching permitted the pairing of survey respondents under the defined circumstance of low self-control with those respondents not having low self-control under multiple relevant covariates.
The results showed a relationship between low self-control and college retention. Specifically, in the matched sample, those students with low self-control were 8 percent less likely to be retained at the institution at the onset of the second year than their counterparts with higher self-control.
The results of the study prompt the important question of how colleges and universities can alter their structures and processes to better support students with low self-control. Key managerial and administrative implications from the findings of this study revolve around the recognition, motivation, and subsequent performance appraisals of those students with low self-control.
This study extends the quite limited research on how low self-control correlates with retention and subsequently offers insights on how to further support students with low self-control as a way to improve retention outcomes. Additionally, the validated eight-item survey provides a quick, low-cost assessment tool for interested researchers and managers.
The authors would like to thank Elizabeth Poje-Hawk for providing support and assistance with the data.
Stephenson, A.L., Heckert, D.A. and Yerger, D.B. (2020), "Examining college student retention: a closer look at low self-control", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 953-964. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-07-2018-0208
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