The Second-Year Retention Effect of Early Enrollment in a First-Year Seminar
Executive Summary of Dissertation Research
Is early enrollment in a qualified first-year seminar (FYS) positively associated with second-year retention rates of new community college students? A large mid-Atlantic community college (MAC) believes that it is, and this belief is the basis for the hypothesis being tested in this research. Beginning in 2010, new first-time college and degree-seeking students were required to enroll in the newly developed FYS course in the first semester of attendance. Students who complied with this policy over the years 2010-2013 were matched on an array of observable and unobservable variables with similar students from the prior years 2006-2009 using the propensity-score matching (PSM) method. Using a logistic regression model, it was estimated that average treatment effect was a statistically significant positive impact of a 6.07 percentage-point increase in the likelihood of being retained into the second year. This result is in line with a common, but not universal, belief in the theory and other research that suggests that enrollment in a FYS would have such an effect. Although there are clear limitations to this result, the implications are positive for the community college that adopted this new policy and for the students it serves.