Retaining students in college: An analysis of freshman persistence in a public research university

Sharon Eugenia Morgan, Fordham University


The majority of students who leave their post-secondary institutions are freshmen. For research universities, the concern of freshman persistence extends beyond a monetary loss. A nation's scientific capability is stabilized by recruiting and retaining the most intelligent students to its research universities. This study used quantitative research methods to examine the critical relationships among the first time-full-time freshmen's (FTFTF) personal background, the level of satisfaction with their academic and social experiences, and how these factors affected the anticipated decision to persist or withdraw at the end of the freshman year at a public research university. New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was selected for the environment of the study. The Persistence in Public Education (PIPE) Survey was designed to examine freshman persistence at NJIT. The PIPE survey was distributed during the second semester of the freshman year which had allowed students the opportunity to experience the university and form an opinion of their academic and social experiences. Descriptive and multivariate statistics were employed using the raw data compiled from the PIPE survey. Responses from the PIPE survey indicated that 149 or 73.4% of the sample population plan to return for their sophomore year of study. The findings from this study suggest that the primary reason FTFTF persist is because of their satisfaction with the academic experience. For the purpose of this study, academic experience refers to any activity involving academics occurring in and outside of the classroom. This research also suggests that all freshmen, regardless of the level of academic preparedness, need to be welcomed, nurtured, and supported through a variety of networks that facilitate interaction and involvement with the university. Recommendations that may increase freshman persistence at NJIT include: (a) setting institutional priorities, strategic planning, and providing adequate funding; (b) restructuring freshman orientation; (c) creating a freshman center; (d) reorganizing freshman advisement; (e) restructuring freshman seminar; and (f) reassessing the freshman year curriculum. Although this study is institution-specific, it serves as a model for other research universities to reassess how freshmen are supported, as well as how they analyze freshman persistence.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Morgan, Sharon Eugenia, "Retaining students in college: An analysis of freshman persistence in a public research university" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3210274.