May 27, 2014
Abstract: Community colleges play a key role in educating the large number of non-traditional, low-income, and under-prepared students who have entered higher education in the past several decades. Despite increased access, community colleges are struggling to graduate students. Most, if not all, strategies provided by scholars to improve college completion rates assume increased student engagement will enhance persistence and success. Existing theories of persistence overlook the dynamic influence of job markets for the students community colleges serve. Using National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, this article draws on Tinto’s theory of persistence and proposes a new framework that acknowledges the role of job opportunities and of work–family–schooling quandaries in community college students’ choices about persistence. Our model builds on the following relevant notions: (a) human capital theory, (b) social integration, and (c) socio-academic integration. Our model has important implications for leaders who aim to better align students’ college experiences with their desired careers and available jobs.
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