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Selecting and supporting future graduates in British Columbia Salem, Stephen 2012

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Selecting and Supporting Future Graduates in British Columbia by  Stephen Joseph Salem  B.A. Vancouver Island University, 2005 University of British Columbia  A GRADUATING PAPER SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF EDUCATION in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Higher Education)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  December 2012  © Stephen Joseph Salem 2012  Future Graduates  Abstract The educational journey is long and difficult. Students who engage in further studies face  many challenges as they progress towards a degree or other certification. These barriers are both academic and non-academic, and higher educational institutions need to be aware of these  challenges in order to support students in their journey to credential completion. This essay will  provide an overview of factors considered relevant to success both from the student’s perspective and the institution’s perspective. This journey begins long before a student applies and in many  cases continues off and on for the rest of his or her life.  December 7, 2012  i  Future Graduates  Table of Contents Abstract ..................................................................................................................................................... i Recruiting Future Graduates ............................................................................................................ 1 BC’s Higher Education Landscape ............................................................................................................. 4 Educational Opportunity .............................................................................................................................. 9 Prediction Using Academic Merit ............................................................................................................ 14 Student Retention and Study Progress .................................................................................................. 16 Educational Event Histories ...................................................................................................................... 19 English as a Second Language ................................................................................................................... 19 Mature Students ............................................................................................................................................. 20 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................................ 22  References ............................................................................................................................................ 25  December 7, 2012  ii  Future Graduates  Recruiting Future Graduates The educational journey is long and difficult. Students who engage in further studies face  many challenges as they progress towards a degree or other certification. These barriers are both academic and non-academic, and higher educational institutions need to be aware of these  challenges in order to support students in their journey to credential completion. This essay will  provide an overview of factors considered relevant to success both from the student’s perspective and the institution’s perspective. This journey begins long before a student applies and in many cases continues off and on for the rest of his or her life (Andres & Offerhaus, 2012).  As mentioned, the path is fraught with many barriers, the first of which is gaining access to  a post-secondary program because institutions only have a limited number of seats. This means  students must “compete” for entry. A common practise in Canadian post-secondary institutions is  the evaluation of eligibility by assessing an applicant’s academic background. This is an important  measurement because having the minimum academic background ensures that the student will have some basic understanding of theories. Basing entrance solely on previous academic  achievement is an imperfect measure because it often fails to account for motivation, interest,  aptitude, and different social, economic and cultural differences that restrict or provide access to  higher education. Resumes and statements of intent can be used to evaluate softer skills like interest, but it much harder to identify and correct for social, economic and cultural barriers.  Achieving the “ideal” or fairest admission criteria can be quite complicated and costly, but there may be a good return on investment as well-supported, academically prepared students should have a better chance of persisting through to completion.  While post-secondary institutions wrestle with the rubric to determine if an applicant  should be admitted to the program, this is a singular event to the student. Once admitted the December 7, 2012  1  Future Graduates  student faces the real challenge of actually finishing the program. Hopefully, they have chosen the  right field of study because they must now commit time, resources and energy to persisting through  to completion. Those with access barriers may now face burdens, and once again post-secondary  institutions need to provide support to ensure all students succeed. Success is an interesting  concept because it looks different depending on your perspective. Students who begin at one  institution but complete at a different one, may not be seen by the original institution as a success;  however, in the eyes of the student they have been quite successful. As we unpack access and  retention themes, we must keep in mind that institutional and personal goals are not always the same.  Before we go too much further, let me reveal my personal biases. I currently work as the  Admissions Supervisor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). I have a solid  understanding of evaluation of previous academics for entry, but I have questioned the fairness and legitimacy of this metric because previous academics do not measure current motivation. I myself  was an under-achiever in high school: immature and unfocused. It did not engage in post-  secondary studies until a workplace injury forced me to reconsider higher education. With  increased effort, I achieved better marks. In my case, I was allowed to begin studies because a  teacher waived the minimum English requirement for me; otherwise, I would have been required to spend additional time and money upgrading. As the student, I benefitted from this individual  assessment. As the institution, I wonder how we can recruit and retain academically successful students making individual assessments of motivation, ability and aptitude.  Because access and retention is a broad subject, this essay is group into many sections. The  first will provide an overview of the post secondary educational system in British Columbia (BC) because my understanding of entrance requirements, upgrading and student life is based in this December 7, 2012  2  Future Graduates  system. This provides a frame of reference for a more in depth discussion of social concerns about  access, retention and persistence. It draws on literature from the United States, Europe, the South Pacific and other Canadian Provinces. This section will begin by exploring how the very act of  setting entrance requirements—whether academic or non-academic—automatically advantages some groups and disadvantages others. Institutions should strive to remove disadvantages so  those with the talent and motivation are given the opportunity to participate, keeping in mind that  students must still accept any opportunity provided. This will be lead to section on academic  prediction, and an overview of student persistence, retention, integration and completion.  In BC there are some specific sub-populations that require special consideration. Those  assessing prior educational experience must be aware of global student mobility; especially, with  the BC government hoping to increase enrolment of international students in response to declining  high school graduates (Steffenhagen, 2011). Therefore language proficiency is an important  consideration for educational planners whether before admittance (e.g., testing and/or upgrading) or after admittance (e.g., language support classes, tutors, etc.). Thus, there is a short section  discussing assessment English as a Second Language (ESL) applicants. This will be followed by a  section addressing the persistence and motivational concerns of mature students. These students  usually have taken many years away from education and have a number of life priorities that take  time away from studies. In BC there are a large number of mature students passing through the  higher education system—engaging and disengaging with various institutions at various stages in  their lives, and these students could help make up for program attrition at more advanced levels.  Institutions must recognize that as people age, their motivation and attitude towards higher  education changes also. Years after leaving high school many people return to the education  system as an effort to increase career opportunities. They follow a variety of adult educational December 7, 2012  3  Future Graduates  paths to gain entry to and/or continue through post-secondary studies. Institutions must respond  to the needs of these academically mobile students to assist them in their educational goals (Andres & Adamuti-Trache, 2008b; Andres & Offerhaus, 2012, Finnie & Mueller, 2008). Program  administrators at higher educational institutions have target enrolment numbers for limited seats;  thus, the “academic bar” must be set low enough to enable access for enough students to fill the  entry level of a program, but high enough to ensure that these students, once admitted, will have  the academic foundation to persist through to the advanced levels of a program. Provided a student  has chosen the right program and ‘fits’ with his peers and professors, those who possess the  appropriate academic background should have a better chance of completing a credential. Once a student graduates from post-secondary education, these individuals should experience increased upward social and economic mobility. Technological education increases opportunities to gain  employment or to continue with more advanced educational studies. Post-secondary graduates  benefit the larger society by actively contributing to the provincial and global knowledge economy.  It cannot be understated that post-secondary education is a very important life shaping experience, and it begins with the ability to access post-secondary training.  BC’s Higher Education Landscape  Access to BC post-secondary education was dramatically increased in the 1960’s. The  MacDonald Report (1962) was the catalyst for the myriad of access and transfer options currently available to prospective students and adult learners in the province.  Prior to 1962 little development or diversification of post-secondary education had  occurred in British Columbia. [..., which] consisted of the University of British Columbia with its satellite campus in Victoria, the tiny Notre Dame University in Nelson, one small private college, and vocational schools” (McArthur, 1997, p. 111-112).  December 7, 2012  4  Future Graduates  The MacDonald Report recommended the creation of two, four-year degree granting  colleges, but the provincial ministry went a step further and created two new full status  universities: Simon Fraser University in Burnaby and the University of Victoria, formerly Victoria College. The report also recommended the creation of six two-year multi-purpose community colleges, some of which were amalgamated with the federally constructed BC vocational  institutions. (Dennison, 1997; McArthur 1997). The report emphasised a spirit of excellence in the creation of university-transferable programs in regions outside the south west corner of the  province. Individuals could take academically recognized first and second year courses in their  home community and then complete the final two years at one of the three major universities to  earn a degree; ultimately, laying the foundation for the now widely accessed and articulated provincial higher education system.  The early 1990’s saw many of the community colleges evolving into university-colleges.  Initially, Malaspina, Cariboo and Okanagan colleges, which were located in the communities of  Nanaimo, Kamloops and Kelowna, respectively. These were followed by colleges in the Lower  Mainland (Kwantlen) and the Fraser Valley (University-College of the Fraser Valley) a few years  later. Planning was underway for a university in Northern BC, and the Open Learning Agency was  recognized to confer degrees through distance education. The Skills Now (1994) initiative saw the creation of applied technological degrees offered through non-university institutions, with Emily Carr College of Art and Design and BCIT designated to degree granting status (Dennison, 1997;  McArthur, 1997). This same year, university-colleges, once conferring degrees under the auspice of one of the three major research universities, were granted the ability to confer their own credentials (Metcalfe, Mazawi, Rubenson, Fisher, MacIvor & Meredith, 2007).  December 7, 2012  5  Future Graduates  The province is now home to eleven universities, eleven community colleges, and four  higher educational institutions. Many of these university designations were the result of significant changes to the provincial higher educational structure that followed Plant’s (2007) Campus2020  report on “Access and Excellence” into post-secondary education in the province of British  Columbia. One of these changes saw institutions previously designated university-colleges, elevated  to the status of teaching universities, and the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser  University and the University of Victoria would remain the province’s research universities (BCCAT, 2010b; Metcalfe et al., 2007; Plant 2007). 1 Plant recognized the same geographic challenges as  Macdonald; however, the post-secondary landscape in 2007 had evolved significantly in terms of  population, programs, structures and facilities that now exist in the various regions of the province. [At the core] is the principle of equal opportunity within a hierarchy of achievement and  ability. It envisions an unbroken educational freeway conveying learners from K-20 with  enough on and off ramps to accommodate every speed and circumstance... limited only by a learners ability, ambitions, starting point and available time (Metcalfe et al., 2007).  Irregular educational paths were continued at the pre-entry level. The Access for All  initiative recommended that all pre-entry and access courses offered at provincial higher  educational institutions be recognized for entry into programs at any of the other post-secondary  institutions; thus ensuring BC residents substitute upgrading locally attended ABE courses for published high school entrance requirements when they apply to provincial higher education  institutions. For students seeking admission to the various provincial post-secondary institutions,  1  Added to this landscape are a number of institutions, like the University of Phoenix that specialize in internet  delivery are expanding student enrolments to levels that far exceed those at traditional post-secondary schools (Coates & Morrison, 2011).  December 7, 2012  6  Future Graduates  they would receive entry credit from any recognized upgrading programs. (BCCAT, 2010a;  Dennison & Schuetze, 2004; Province of British Columbia, 2010). Since 2007, ABE in BC has been  offered free for Canadian citizens and landed immigrants ensuring financial barriers are removed for adults needing academic upgrading to be eligible for post-secondary studies (Plant, 2007).  With such a kaleidoscope of academic and upgrading programs developed to overcome  unique barriers to BC higher education, many educational routes have and continue to be taken by individuals who graduate from secondary school and mature into various life roles (e.g., parent,  spouse, employee). To illustrate the number of different educational routes available to students in the BC system, Paths on Life’s Way began with the individual’s choice to attend either a university, a non-university or neither. At five-year intervals, educational outcomes for these individuals  included non-participation, non-completer, non-university completer, bachelors completer, and  first professional/graduate completer. This longitudinal survey has now documented 22-years of  life history for individuals who graduated from BC high school in 1988 (Andres & Offerhaus, 2012). The credential completion rate was observed to increase as the sample aged, and just under two thirds of men and women completed bachelors degrees or other non-university credentials. A  further nine percent of both genders went on to earn professional or graduate degrees (Andres, 2009b).  Andres and Adamuti-Trache (2008a) plotted 55 distinct post-secondary educational  trajectories and observed students who took many different paths to completing or not-completing  a credential. By correcting for entry timing and pace, 21 categories were identified with the highest frequency of individuals going immediately from high school graduate to post-secondary graduate,  which meant earning a university or non-university credential by 1993. Those who continued into  further studies followed an advanced route by continuing into subsequent professional or graduate December 7, 2012  7  Future Graduates  level studies. Other common BC post-secondary routes included transfer—those who began nonuniversity, but completed a university degree, prolonged—those who took extended time to  complete, broader—those who completed a non-university credential and continued on to  complete a university degree, delayed—those who did not start immediately after finishing high  school, non-completer—those who began, but discontinued, and non-participants—those who never  entered into the post-secondary system (Andres, 2009b; Andres & Adamuti-Trache, 2008a).  Although non-participation in post-secondary education was initially reported at roughly 20%  (18% of women and 22% of men) by 2003 non-participation dropped to only 6% (Andres &  Adamuti-Trache, 2008b). While the overall variety of paths taken by BC high school graduates  shown to be quite extensive (Andres & Offerhaus, 2012), it still could not account for many other individuals accessing the provinces higher education system (e.g., out of province, landed  immigrants, international students, upgraded high school drop-outs, etc.). Educators and  administrators must be aware of all of these different trajectories, and try to respond to the unique needs of students on these different paths. This should ensure the success of both the individual learner and the institution through maximizing enrolment at all educational levels.  Of interest to institutions like BCIT, which offer specialized vocational training, those  individuals who entered into a technical or vocational institution immediately following high school and completed a credential (usually after two-years of study) were observed to be almost  completely disengaged with higher educational training ten years later. Although, the desire for  others in the sample to engaging in this type of study increased sample aged (Andres & Offerhaus, 2012), so with frequency of older students accessing specialized training, institutions may alter  recruitment practices to attract more students with prior post-secondary training.  December 7, 2012  8  Future Graduates  The BC post-secondary system shows success for students transferring between the  institutions located within it, so these successes must be occurring somewhat independently of institutional retention practices. Over a student’s educational journey, he or she may sample a  variety of programs and courses, acquiring many credits, and, when he or she finds a program of  best fit, combine all previously earned credits to complete a credential (Andres, 2009b). Arguably, it would be in the receiving institution’s best interest to ensure that advanced level entry can be easily attained, as recruitment of these students would replace any withdrawing students.  Institutions cannot force fit students into subjects that they lack interest or aptitude, and BC post-  secondary institutions will continue to exchange students progressing irregularly through their  academic experience (Andres & Adamuti-Trache, 2008b, 2009b; Andres & Offerhaus, 2012; Finnie,  Mueller & Sweetman, 2008; Finnie & Qui, 2008).  Educational Opportunity  Although the BC post-secondary system has unique articulation and student mobility  models, it evolved from older European and North American models. Historically, access to post-  secondary education was a system of sponsored mobility because it was reserved primarily for the  children of the elite and for the education of the clergy. New discoveries, knowledge and inventions  increased demand for a more highly skilled work force, which, in turn, saw an increased demand for  higher education. With these changes, access evolved into a system based more upon previously earned “merit” (e.g., high school grades, credentials, ability to speak Latin, athletics, etc.).  This provided an equal opportunity for individuals privileged enough to pursue post-  secondary studies to compete for an opportunity to study using previous academic achievements as a uniform measure of assessment (Farwell, 2002; Hayton & Paczuska, 2002; Karabel, 2005). There is a major flaw inherent to systems of contest mobility because those who develop the interest and December 7, 2012  9  Future Graduates  ambition to seek further studies, must also possess the talent, cultural and socio-economic  resources to compete for access to the system (Turner, 1960). Furthermore, increasing populations  saw physical space on campus restricting the number of students admitted to a program, so as  more young people demanded post-secondary education, stricter “gate-keeping” mechanisms were  established to evaluate suitability for entry into a program. To offset the social inadequacies in the  United States, affirmative action and special recruitment efforts targeted marginalized sub-  populations (Karabel, 2005).  Karabel (2005) chronicled the changing definition of merit at Harvard, Princeton and Yale.  These institutions based admissions primarily on the “mastery of traditional curriculum” (P. 5). Because this included subjects like Latin, many minority groups were disadvantaged. As an  increasing number of Eastern Europe minorities became better educated in the 1920’s, institutions began defining merit through less academic means to more gentlemanly characteristics. For example, applicants were judged based on “sturdy character, sound body and proper social  backgrounds” (p. 5). This criteria again benefited the elite Protestants who had the proper social  background to be considered an “all-round man.” Eastern European and Jewish people continued  to be disadvantaged because they were unfamiliar with the customs of the dominant Protestant  culture. Entry was based on grades in specific high schools and “sponsorship.” Academic ability  and effort became less important than participation in the elite social clubs, extra-curricular  activities and athletics; those who studied too hard were often the target of institutionally  supported bullying (Karabel, 2005).  By the 1950s, the Cold War saw elite universities struggling with talent loss. The Soviet  Union was winning the “Space-race,” so entry merit retuned to a more academic definition with emphasis placed on SAT and extra-curricular activity, and less emphasis on birthright and the December 7, 2012  10  Future Graduates  subjective traits of manliness. A number of categories were defined in the rubric for assessing  eligibility. These used combinations of high school grades, GPA, athletics, extracurricular activities, referrals, children of alumni and ethnic background to evaluate eligibility and suitability. Entry  became a combination of contest and sponsored mobility.  The 1960’s saw the rise of human rights and the move towards inclusive and more  culturally diverse admission’s policies; this included a drastic increase in number of women, Jewish  and Black Americans being accepted into elite universities. Over the following decades, Harvard,  Yale and Princeton opened their doors to a greater number and diversity of minority populations  (Karabel, 2005). This brief history of the Big Three illustrates how “the definition of ‘merit’ is fluid  and tends to reflect the values and interests of those who have the power to impose their particular cultural beliefs” (Karabel, 2005, p. 5, quotations in original), and no matter how merit is defined, it “will benefit some groups while disadvantaging others” (p. 3). Burbules et al. (1982)  recommended that “equality [...mean] equal and fair in light of relevant similarities and difference”  (p. 171); furthermore, attributes of need and merit have a large role in the provision or prevention  of access, and “policy makers must determine distributions by balancing what persons deserve against what limited resources permit” (p. 174).  On the surface it appears that the dominant culture can easily impose a system to advantage  their children, but the social and economic benefits to those individuals who gain access to postsecondary education are immense, and special interest groups continue to influence who gains  access. The protection of elite status conflicts with the forces of social inclusivity. These forces  were brought to light by Karabel (2005) who observed “admissions to the Big Three is a history not only of elite dominance, but of resistance by subordinate groups” (p. 6).  December 7, 2012  11  Future Graduates  Administrators and institutional planners must continue to exhibit leadership in social and  economic opportunities for students from all social classes. This is not always easy because postsecondary institutions are continually responding to the needs and interests of funding sources  (e.g., alumni, the government, business, etc.), internal agents (e.g., students, staff, faculty, etc.) and  socio-cultural movements (e.g., affirmative action, unions, etc.) to define who will have access to the limited institutional seats. Personal, social, cultural, economic, cognitive and environmental  factors that impact on the student’s decision and ability to attend further studies must be given special consideration and institutional support (Burbules et al., 1982, 1982; Evans, 1976). Any  disadvantage—in essence, the opposite of merit—is considered a need that must be overcome for  an individual to access and complete post-secondary studies. If a disadvantage warrants special consideration, intervention occurs on the part of the recruiters, government or special interest  groups rectify the need, which may derive different social and racial problems on campus (Browne-  Miller, 1996).  While society grapples with fairness and equality, institutions are still using previous  academics to measure student motivation and possible success. Measureable qualities like  academics and athletics have inherent biases preventing fair access to committed students. This is because actual effort required for these achievements is not accurately reflected in this measure.  High marks with low effort are indistinguishable from high marks with high effort. The latter probably has qualities better suited to persisting though the duration of the post-secondary  training. The same can be said about results achieved by students with high ability but low effort  and those achieved by students with low ability but high effort (Burbules, Lord & Sherman, 1982).  It is hard to say which student would be more successful in post-secondary because the former,  while gifted with intelligence, may not have developed the study skills or commitment to complete December 7, 2012  12  Future Graduates  a credential; the latter, may have strong academic habits, but lack the intelligence to grasp  advanced topics.  The possession of ability, merit and the removal of any access barriers still requires that an  individual accept the opportunity to engage in higher educational studies. Opportunity is a special  kind of choice where an individual must have access to the choice, the willingness to engage and the  aptitude to be successful (Burbules et al., 1982) Thus, “opportunity is an evaluative as well as a  descriptive label” (Burbules et al., 1982 p. 170). Ennis (1976) argued that the concept of equality of educational opportunities is generally agreed upon as a goal of higher education, but found that the application of this concept became quite subjective when defining what actually constitutes  education, the cultural value of this training and what it is meant by having an opportunity. Karabel (2005) also identified equality of conditions as a philosophical objective of educational opportunity because access to higher education should not be influenced by wealth or social status. So, while  philosophically higher education tries to level access through scholarships and affirmative action, few considerations can be made for an unwillingness to accept an opportunity due to cultural or  social beliefs (Barbules et al., 1982).  For example, working class individuals may pass on the opportunity to participate in higher  education as a “strategy of risk avoidance, rather than a lack of inspiration or talent” (Archer,  Leathwood & Hutchings, 2002, p. 107). The risk of attending higher education (e.g., cost, both in  time and money, uncertainty of knowledge application or career outcome, student loan repayment, etc.) outweighs the benefits in the mind of the individual (e.g., career advancement, expansion of  personal knowledge, economic and social mobility, etc.).  Cultural challenges exist in the widening participation. Many advantages that traditional  choosers—university attendance is “part of what they do” (p. 25)—have due to an adequate level or December 7, 2012  13  Future Graduates  surplus of cultural, societal, economic and social capitals are educational choices are socially  constructed as habitus acquired in their upbringing (Macrae & Maguire, 2002). They identified that  non-traditional choosers—first generation students—often lacked social and cultural capital, which led to poor program choice and/or a lack of critical guidance required for them to better survive a  long term educational experience.  Although the rules of the meritocratic contests have been strongly influenced by social,  cultural, economic and academic forces, for the student who engages in the opportunity, access  represents a single transitional point on the journey through higher education. Once a student  begins this journey, they can look forward to the academic trials that lead to a credential. “The  question of widening access is not just about recruitment, it is about student retention [... and] some  students are better placed to navigate a route through higher education and stay the course than  others” (Evans, 2002, p. 25). The next section will address the topics of student persistence and the  “science” of predicting student success.  Prediction Using Academic Merit  In the prediction of student success, academic merit can account for about a third of the  factors pushing a student toward success (Willingham, 1990). However, academic merit can be evaluated in a number of ways. For instance, Geiser and Santelices (2007) compared SAT test  scores with high school grade point average (HSGPA) as predictive measures of success over the four years of a program and on through to graduation. They found that the HSGPA were  “consistently the strongest predictor of four year college outcomes for all academic disciplines, campuses and freshman cohorts in the University of California Sample, and predictive weight  associated with HSGPA [increased] after the freshman year” (Geiser & Santelices, 2007, p. 2). When the analysis was controlled for campus and subject groupings, “the coefficient for...HSGPA, actually December 7, 2012  14  Future Graduates  [increased]” (Geiser & Santelices, 2007, p. 21), yet close to two-thirds of variance was still left  unexplained by either HSGPA or SAT predictors. These “results should not be surprising given the many other factors that affect students’ undergraduate experiences after admissions, such as  financial aid, social support and academic engagement in college” (Geiser & Santelices, 2007, p. 12). The first year or two of college [can be] a difficult transition period for many students who  must adjust not only to the more rigorous academic standards of college but often as well to the experience of being away from home for the first time [...] for those who do persist,  mean GPAs plummet well below what students have been accustomed to earning in high school. (Gieser & Santelices, 2007, p. 17)  After this initial adjustment, student grades showed gradual improvements, and HSGPA  remained the stronger predictor. The difference in predictability between HSGPA and SAT may be  the result of method covariance. For instance, high school courses have a similar method of  instruction, assessment and teacher-student interaction as used in post-secondary courses, and the SAT only measures academic competence through a single means during the brief testing timeframe (Geiser & Santelices, 2007).  Ramist, Lewis and McCamley (1990) found that courses with the highest correlation to the  SAT (i.e., most predictive) were quantitative and scientific in subject. The courses with the lowest correlations (i.e., least predictive) were less traditionally academic subjects, such as remedial  English, music, art and physical education; furthermore, students in the lower third percentile  demonstrated lower predictability of freshman grade point average (FGPA, Ramist et al., 1990). Adding to this, there was very little change in the validity coefficient observed for the top third  percentile. Grades of students in the lower third tended to be less predictable, which may be due in part to available learner support services within a given institution. The offering of these services December 7, 2012  15  Future Graduates  could allow academically weaker students an additional opportunity to learn/reinforce the  necessary foundational knowledge. Alternatively, lower third students may self-select courses that they have more aptitude toward; while the courses that attract a higher calibre of students may  have inadvertently biased grading scales due to the historic and now expected performance  students with stronger academic backgrounds (Ramist et al., 1990). Student Retention and Study Progress  The concepts of student retention from an institutional perspective and study progress from  a student perspective are complicated by both (a) the academic and social relationships between  the institute and the student (Andres & Carpenter, 1997; Tinto, 1988), and (b) the provincial  structure enabling the ease of student mobility in the post-secondary environment (Dennison,  1997, Schuetze & Day, 2001). It is generally understood that the better a student integrates into the educational environment, the more likely the individual will progress through a program to graduation.  What does integration mean then? To a student, they may integrate both socially and  academically, yet as they learn more about the chosen discipline, they may not like the educational or professional outcomes. For the student, education is a significant decision that impacts the rest  of his or her life, so it is reasonable to assume that he or she will continue to explore or discover new career and/or other educational opportunities even after commencement of studies into a  program. This results in the transition of academically successful students who discontinued study  in one field before the completion of a credential, and transferred to a different program or  institution that may have a better fit (Andres et al., 2007; Martinello, 2008; Schuetze & Day, 2001). This effect has been magnified in BC where the provincial government has facilitated the  development of an articulated post-secondary system enabling ease of student mobility among the December 7, 2012  16  Future Graduates  various public post-secondary institutions with the assurance of credit for previously completed  subject matter (Andres & Adamuti-Trache, 2008a; BC Council on Admissions and Transfer, BCCAT,  2010a; Dennison, 1997; McArthur, 1997; Metcalfe et al., 2007).  Integration into the educational environment also involves the ability to learn. For instance,  faculty and staff who were members of the Association of American Universities, were asked about the characteristics of a well-prepared and successful student. A number of skills were identified, which Conley (2003) labelled habits of the mind. These habits included aptitudes like (a) critical thinking, (b) problem solving, (c) an openness to critical feedback, and (d) the ability to use  acquired knowledge rather than simply regurgitating it. Many of the faculty and staff interviewed  suggested that these habits are somewhat more important than just simply high school grades.  They still support the assessment of incoming students because skills would be required for  students to be successful in high school and, provided students apply themselves, these skills  should carry forward into post-secondary.  So program choice, foundational knowledge, and the ability to learn are some factors in  student integration; however, there are many other factors that have an impact on progress  throughout a program. In an exploration of student success, Van Overwalle (1989) observed mid-  term results, the efficiency of study time and academic self-esteem as the best indicators of final  exam success. The academic confidence of successful students was moderated by personal  characteristics that included, but were not limited to, prior knowledge, study effort and time commitments, interest in the subject, ability to understand lectures and fear of exams (Van  Overwalle, 1989). The influence and expectation for study originated both internally and externally  to the student, and were either more or less controllable by the student.  December 7, 2012  17  Future Graduates  An external controllable factor, for example, would be the help and support available from  other students and faculty. External to the student because it hinges on the willingness of peers to provide support, but it is controllable because the student can chose to engage in this manner of  study or not. An example of an internal uncontrollable factor would be test anxiety. It is internal  because it’s a feeling that resonates from within the individual, yet it is irrational, largely  uncontrollable and difficult to suppress (Van Overwalle,1989).  Due to the multitude of influences on a student, prediction of academic completion is  strongest in the first few terms, but the influences diminish over time. In a case study at the  University of Manitoba, Cyrenne and Chan (2010) found that high school GPA still had a strong  correlation to student success. They observed that high school grades were a good indicator of a student’s initial academic success; however, as time progressed, other factors like academic fit,  educational and career expectations, and a student’s commitment were all found to exert a greater  influence on longer term study progress than high school grades.  In a similar study, Beekhoven et al. (2003) observed secondary school GPA was a good  indicator of a student’s initial ability, having a strong positive effect on the study progress for first  year Dutch students; however, this influence decreased in subsequent terms with completed  courses showing a stronger influence on study progress. This supports the findings of O’Hallaran  and Russell (1980) who found that the influence of high school on performance in a part-time math course decreased significantly after two years with the authors stating that “no matter how  accurate and reliable an earlier measure, it will not account for later changes in a students attitude,  interests and career aspirations” (p. 546). These factors tend to complicate research evaluating the  predictive validity of entrance requirements.  December 7, 2012  18  Future Graduates  Educational Event Histories A common observation technique in higher education is the longitudinal study of term by term  progress through a program. Desjardins, Ahlburg and McCall (1999) used one competing and two  single risk models to identify the timing of four possible student outcome variables—(a) continue,  (b) drop-out and do not return during the study period, (c) first stop-out, or (d) graduation—over a seven year program, and they found that students were less likely to stop-out if they entered a  program with a higher GPA; however, students with transfer credit were more likely to stop-out in year one. This study found that a higher GPA had a negative effect on drop-out (i.e., students were less likely to experience drop-out), and the authors recommended that institutions practice  monitoring student grades as early as possible in a program to improve student retention and success (Desjardins et al., 1999), and over the credential duration, continuous enrolment and  continuous improvements in grades were considered to be more important than just simply first  year grades in the completion of a credential. GPA was found to be a “powerful predictor [...as] one grade increase in GPA more than doubles a student’s chance of graduating” (Desjardins, McCall, Ahlburg & Mage, 2002). Interestingly, longitudinal research has observed voluntary departure  behaviour was observed by academically successful students who discontinued studies (Ishitani,  2003). Indicating that factors other than academic knowledge influence the student’s ability to succeed.  English as a Second Language With student integration playing such an important role in student retention and success,  second language speakers are disadvantaged both in verbal translation of classroom instruction and in conversations with peers. The second language socialization theory describes the link  between linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge as individuals are socialized “into different groups December 7, 2012  19  Future Graduates  and social context in which they seek membership” (Zappa-Hollman, 2007, p. 459). Generally, ESL  applicants must demonstrate a minimum level of English, and this requirement presents a barrier both to international students and to those who have immigrated to Canada and wish to pursue further education. Golder (2006) described English assessment as a long-term barrier to new Canadians resuming previous professional occupations, but the enforcement of the English  requirement was supported by Coley (1999) who addressed the temptation for setting the entry level too low for ESL students.  In a study of Australian institutions, Coley (1999) argued against accepting GCE English  tests taken overseas because ESL applicants were only being tested for reading and writing  components, and not being tested for listening and speaking components. A majority of the  institutions surveyed in this study used The British Council and The National Academic Recognition Information Centre guide (1999) to determine equivalencies for GCSE/GCE levels in order to admit  foreign students. Institutions were further advised to align entry requirements with the levels  recommended by international testing agencies (e.g., TOEFL) to ensure that these students were  successful. This supported Spinks and Ho’s (1984) findings that IELTs results have good predictive  value if properly used because this language test assesses all four components. Mature Students  Older students face unique challenges when undertaking a long-term educational  commitment, and when encouraging the mature student to embark on the risky endeavour of  further education, practical matters must be considered for them to be successful. For instance,  providing stable timetables well in advance of study to allow for the planning of daily activities like childcare, work, and commuting (Dinsdale, 2002). In many educational systems, access programs have been developed to provide mature students the ability to gain entry to higher education.  December 7, 2012  20  Future Graduates  Similar to the Canadian educational system, Carey (2002) reviewed how access courses  developed in the 1970s in Britain, have successfully increased participation by under-represented  and economically disadvantaged adults. Attendance in 1999 had risen to 37,726 students  registered at 457 institutions—women made up three quarters of these access students. With  three different credentials available, many of these programs focused more on learning skills, than  just the acquisition of a large body of knowledge. The universities in Britain readily accepted  applicants who employed this educational route because the observed success/failure ratio of access students and traditional students were roughly the same in the subsequent higher educational programs (Carey, 2002).  A small qualitative study of seven students who dropped out of pre-entry courses in the UK  examined barriers to success for mature students (Reay et al., 2002). Those who abandoned  training expressed difficulty juggling work, and/or family obligations, and/or logistical difficulties in arranging for all their commitments. A lack of prior-knowledge led to a lack of academic selfesteem in many of the respondents, and a low socio-economic status also factored into the  withdrawals. “The consequence for [upgrading] students not having adequate finances is that they  cannot afford travel, decent accommodations, or even essential course materials” (Reay et al., 2002,  p. 10). Although Reay et al. (2002) made a case that financing was a significant issue for mature students, they did not compare it to the pre-entry experience of those who completed and  continued into subsequent post-secondary studies. It would have been interesting to see if successful mature students in the same cohort faced the same financial, family, and social obligations, but developed better strategies to cope with these pressures.  December 7, 2012  21  Future Graduates  Conclusion Students who have met requirements should be confident that they have the appropriate  academic foundation to understand the content of the program and the skill to cope with the  program’s rigor, yet persisting to graduation will require more than just foundational knowledge. As students progress through a program, resources like money and time begin to outweigh pre-  entry grades. Students who do not meet minimum requirements would need to leverage social and economic capital before even beginning post-secondary studies, and if under-qualified students are  admitted before obtaining a minimum foundational knowledge, they would require additional  institutional support which would be over and above any classroom time assigned homework. This  could have a negative impact on the student by adding extra courses and/or tutoring, which  increases the academic time commitment and could lead to burn-out.  One could argue that an under-qualified but highly motivated student could overcome the  academic challenges created through a lack of foundational knowledge in a subject, but an alternate  argument could be made that these students have been set up to fail. Unless it was coupled with an increase in corresponding academic support resources, these under-qualified students will have  more difficulty and less chance of completing the credential (Willingham, Lewis, Morgan, & Ramist, 1990).  Under-qualified students may adversely affect their peers; for example, students who lack  the appropriate background knowledge may ask more questions for clarity on basic concepts in the classroom. On the other hand, stronger students may benefit by having peers to help, which may improve their learning through tutoring and mentoring weaker students (Oakes, 1987). This  presents the first big complication involved in predictive assessment: peer influence.  December 7, 2012  22  Future Graduates  How could an institution possibly match students together who will form a “high  performing team?” (Leadership Seminar, 2012) And isn’t the ability to work well both  independently and with others, skills students should learn during their post-secondary  experience? By asking these questions, we must resign ourselves to the fact that, although peer  interaction is important factor in a student’s persistence, it happens naturally in the educational environment. Without a significant increase in resources, how would an institution determine  and/or optimize and/or correct for interactions between the students within each cohort every term? What characteristics would be evaluated, by whom and how?  Another complication arises in assessing for motivation and commitment. These factors,  while considered important, are subject to events in an individual’s life at a given time. How does the institution predict a student’s long-term motivation and commitment to persist? Although  these skills are necessary to complete a degree, maybe these characteristics should be exercised  and developed throughout the post-secondary program rather than evaluated before commencing.  Appropriate non-academic support must be offered to guide students to develop and hone motivational skill and commitment over the course of their post-secondary study.  We must now ask whether a student can and/or should be evaluated for minimum  commitment and motivation? Completion of high school with good marks is considered a reflection of a student’s commitment and motivation while he or she was in high school, and it is hoped that  these attributes will carry forward into higher education. Enrolment in upgrading courses could be considered another sign that an individual is motivated with completion of these courses being  another indicator. As we accept this reasoning, we must keep in mind the changing motivation and  commitment levels of individuals at various stages of their lives. On an individual level, assessment of maturity, professionalism and motivation can be made somewhat accurately, but how does the  December 7, 2012  23  Future Graduates  institution evaluate for self-efficacy or academic confidence? While natural abilities, aptitudes and  peer integration have a strong influence on student success, they are very difficult to accurately  quantify for predictive assessment unless a personal meeting is conducted for every prospective  student. A practice that would require increased resources for eligibility assessments. This means many higher educational institutions will continue to rely on past academic performance as predictive of the success for the majority of prospective students.  December 7, 2012  24  Future Graduates  References Andres, L. (1999). Introduction. In L. Andres (ed.). 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