Book Reviews

Book By: Alan Seidman, Ed
Review By: Jeffrey A. Margolis
Rowan University
College of Education

Persistence. It is a term that conjures up the guts and stamina needed to attain a goal. Gaining admission to college and completing a degree program would certainly fall under that category and there are a great number of students entering our institutions who are striving to achieve that goal. But somewhere along the way, some students are sidetracked for any number of reasons. Whether it be a financial crisis, a family problem, or just plain homesickness, students leave college without attaining their goals. Colleges have a vested interest in reducing the drop out rate and developing strategies that assist motivated students in their quest for a college degree.

College Student Retention is a compendium of eleven essays that address a number of philosophical and social issues regarding student retention. The key research in this area has been done by Dr. Vincent Tinto, chair of the Higher Education Program at Syracuse University. Tinto, who has written articles for NACADA publications, notes that “students are more likely to succeed when they find themselves in settings that care [and are] committed to success” (p.327). To that end, universities should develop action plans to increase student success levels (as measured by their graduation rate.)

Several contributors, including Thomas Mortenson, Alberto Cabrera, Kurt Burkum and Steven La Nasa, chose a more quantitative approach, backing up their assessment with a myriad of charts and graphs. These research driven academic pieces statistically point to issues, such as socio-economic background, ethnicity, and student need to hold part-time jobs, as variables in any student retention initiative.

Editor Seidman, Director of the Center for the Study of College Student Retention, observes that developmental courses, extensive freshman orientation programs, and collaborative learning assignments for new students are strategies that can be instrumental in increasing student retention. The more positive experiences and interventions a student has during college, the better the chances of completing a degree.

Still, academic advisors seeking cut and paste, quick fix strategies that can be immediately put to use in the field will generally be disappointed with this work. In the book’s epilogue, even Dr. Tinto admits that

”… while it can be said that we now know the broad dimensions of the process of student leaving, we know very little about a theory of action for student persistence (p.317).” This book is best suited for those involved in enrollment management as it discusses the financial implications for institutions with low persistence rates.

College Student Retention: Formula for Student Success. (2005) Book by Alan Seidman, Ed. Review by Jeffrey A. Margolis. ACE available through Greenwood Publishing. 364 pp., $49.95, ISBN# 0-275-98193-2.

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