Retention Resources for Individuals & Educational Institutions

Retention Theories*

Below are the major theories/models/concepts over the years which attempt to explain college student retention/attrition.

  • Astin's (1977, 1985) Theory of Involvement
    • The more involved a student is with the college, the higher likelihood of student retention.
  • Bean's (1980, 1983) Model of Work Turnover to Student Attrition
    • Used concepts from organizational studies of worker turnover. Examines how organizational attributes and reward structures affect student satisfaction and persistence.
  • Bean and Metzner's (1985) Nontraditional Student Attrition
    • Environmental factors have a greater impact on departure decisions of adult students than academic variables.
  • Kamens (1971, 1974)
    • Used multi-institutional data to demonstrate how colleges of greater size and complexity had lower attrition rates.
  • McNeely (1937) "College Student Mortality"
    • Examined many factors in college student retention including time to degree, when attrition was most prevalent in a student's education, impact of college size etc.
  • Spady Model (1971)
    • Interaction between student characteristics and campus environment
  • Summerskill (1962)
    • Personality attributes of students is the main reasons for persistence and leaving.
  • Tinto Model (1975, 1993)
    • Academic and social integration with the formal and informal academic and social systems of a college.

*Most of these theories have been taken from:

Berger, J. B., & Lyons, S. (2005). Past to present: A historical look at retention. In Seidman, A. (Ed.). College student retention: Formula for student success. Praeger Press.

Braxton, J. M. & Hirschy, A. S. (2005). Theoretical Developments in the study of college student departure. In Seidman, A. (Ed.). College student retention: Formula for student success. Praeger Press.

Other References

Astin, A. W. (1977). Four critical years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Astin, A. W. (1985). Achieving academic excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bean, J. (1980). Dropouts and turnover: The synthesis and test of a casual model of student attrition. Research in Higher Education, 12, 155-187.

Bean, J. (1983). The application of a model of turnover in work organizations to the student attrition process. The Review of Higher Education, 6, 129-148.

Bean, J. P. & Metzner, B. S. (1985). A conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition. Review of Educational Research, 55, 485-540.

Kamens, D. H. (1971). The college "charter" and college size: Effects on occupational choice and college attrition. Sociology of Education, 44(summer), 270-296.

Kamens, D. H. (1974). Colleges and elite formation: The case of prestigious American colleges. Sociology of Education, 47(summer), 354-378.

McNeely, J. H. (1937). College student mortality. U.S. Office of Education, Bulletin 1937, no. 11. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Spady, W. (1971). Dropouts from higher education: An interdisciplinary review and synthesis. Interchange, 1, 64-85.

Summerskill, J. (1962). In N. Sanford (Ed.), The American College. New York: Wiley.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropouts from higher education: a theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.