Date of Award

Spring 3-9-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martin Finkelstein, Ph.D.


retention, persistence, attrition, dropout, academic discipline


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between student retention and social and academic engagement and how it varies by academic discipline. Research indicates that students may have varied experiences within higher education based on their academic discipline. Such varied experiences may be due to integration factors related to their social and academic experience. How these differences lead to varied retention outcomes and the degree to which that is the case is an area of inquiry that is minimally explored throughout the retention literature. As such, this study explored the disciplinary differences in college student retention along with the impact of social and academic integration across the disciplines.

A nationally representative sample derived from the Beginning Postsecondary Study (2012/2014), which is administered by theNationalCenterfor Education Statistics, was utilized for this study. UsingHolland’s theory of careers (1966), four separate academic discipline subgroups were created for analysis along with that of the whole group base model. Following the descriptive analysis, logistic regression was used to analyze the relationship between social and academic integration and student retention.

The findings of this study indicate differences in student retention rates among the various academic discipline subgroups. Further, the results of this study indicate that both social and academic integration factors are found to be important in predicting retention in general, after controlling for all other factors in the model. It was also found that the level to which social and academic integration does relate to academic discipline varies significantly by academic discipline subgroup. Across each academic discipline subgroup, most students indicated strong agreement with levels of satisfaction with social and academic integration. Finally, the relationship between social integration and student retention was significant for all disciplines except one academic discipline subgroup. These findings support previous research which indicates that the relationship between social and academic integration and student retention is significant and varied between the whole group and each of the academic discipline subgroups.

Recommendations for future research include continued examination of student retention at the level of academic discipline with a particular focus on those disciplines included in the artistic and investigative categories. Further, it is recommended that future research on this topic include qualitative and mixed-methods approaches.