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Retention and degree completion: A quantitative assessment of the impacts of study abroad on community college students

Ladd-Minx, Cassidy
This study analyzed the impacts of participation in short-term study abroad programs at Oklahoma community colleges through a quantitative research design. Student retention and degree completion are concerns for all types of higher education institutions, but U.S. community colleges experience an even greater struggle to retain students from freshman to sophomore year than four-year institutions (Braxton, 2013; Fike & Fike, 2008; Cohen, 1996). Research shows that participants in study abroad at four-year institutions are better retained and more likely to complete a degree than students who do not participate in study abroad (Hamir, 2011; Posey, 2003; Sutton & Rubin, 2010). The purpose of this study was to determine if similar outcomes for retention and degree completion are true for U.S. community college students who participate in study abroad programs. First, descriptive statistics were utilized to evaluate demographics of study abroad participants and non-participants. Second, two Chi-Square Tests of Independence were used to identify impacts of study abroad participation on retention and degree completion. Results indicated a significant relationship between community college study abroad participation with both retention and degree completion. It was concluded that students who participate in community college study abroad programs are more likely to be retained and complete a degree. Study abroad could serve as a strategy for U.S. community colleges to boost retention and degree completion rates given thoughtful consideration of common barriers such as lack of institutional funding, limited resources, and negative student perceptions.