Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Norma T. Mertz

Committee Members

J. Patrick Biddix, Jimmy G. Cheek, Tricia McClam

Abstract

As we are living in a highly global society, colleges and universities in the US are seeking to attract international students to study at their institutions. In 2013, over 886,000 international students were enrolled at US colleges and universities, bringing academic, cultural, and economic benefits to US campuses and communities (Institute of International Education, 2014b). However, enrollment at an institution of higher education does not guarantee a student will persist to graduation. While studies of domestic student retention continue to flourish, studies of international student retention are considerably more limited. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of undergraduate international student persistence at one large, four-year public research institution in the US. Two research questions guided this study:

1. Are there differences in terms of social and academic engagement, GPA, and credit hours earned between first-year international and domestic persisters and non-persisters at a large, four-year public research institution in the US?

2. How do social and academic engagement, GPA, and credit hours earned relate to persistence among first-year international and domestic students at a large, four-year public research institution in the US?

Secondary analysis of two datasets was conducted to answer the research questions using descriptive and nonparametric statistics. First-year international student responses to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) from 2001-2011 as well as GPA and credit hours earned were compared to a matching set of domestic student responses based on persistence and non-persistence to the second year of study. Findings indicated that a higher GPA and more credit hours earned significantly related to persistence of international students. While academic and social engagement were not found to significantly relate to persistence, both persisters and non-persisters reported participation in social and academic activities. In spite of the cultural adjustment challenges that international students face, the findings from this study suggest that international and domestic students appear to be more alike than different in terms of social and academic engagement, GPA, and credit hours earned in relation to persistence.

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