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MSU-led study identifies risks for quitting college
Date:2/16/2011

EAST LANSING, Mich. College students who consider dropping out are particularly sensitive to a handful of critical events including depression and loss of financial aid, according to a study led by Michigan State University scholars.

Surprisingly, however, other events such as a death in the family and students' failure to get their intended major did not have a significant influence on their intention to drop out, said Tim Pleskac, MSU assistant professor of psychology and lead researcher on the project.

By identifying which risks prompt students to consider quitting, the research could help in the effort to combat college withdrawal, Pleskac said. More than 40 percent of students in the United States fail to get a bachelor's degree within six years at the college where they began, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student's everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We now have a method to measure what events are 'shocking' students and prompting them to think about quitting."

"From an institutional perspective," he added, "we are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

The study, funded by the College Board, will appear in an upcoming issue of the research journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

In the study, Pleskac and colleagues developed a mathematical model that describes how students decide to quit. They used the model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 critical events (or "shocks) and asked students whether these events had happened to them during the previous semester; the students were later asked whether they planned to withdraw.

The critical event with the
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Contact: Tim Pleskac
pleskact@msu.edu
517-353-8918
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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