Ruffalo Noel Levitz Study Identifies Motivational Barriers to College Completion for Incoming First-Year Students

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As they start college, the vast majority of incoming freshmen exude a strong desire to complete a degree, but many also express early concerns and attitudes that reduce their motivation and put them at risk for attrition. This study explored 85 facets of incoming students’ motivation encompassing a wide range of noncognitive concerns that influence completion.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz releases 2016 National Freshman Motivation to Complete College Report.

What are the most important motivational barriers that keep college students from completing their degrees? A new study from Ruffalo Noel Levitz looks beyond standardized test scores and high school transcripts to explore a wider range of factors that influence completion including social attitudes and motivations; academic, financial, and personal concerns; the influence of students’ racial/ethnic backgrounds, age, and gender; students’ openness to receiving assistance from their college; and family support.

The 2016 National Freshman Motivation to Complete College Report was based on a 100-item, Ruffalo Noel Levitz survey completed by a national sample of nearly 100,000 incoming freshmen in 2015. The study provided immediate findings to the 308 institutions that participated in order to facilitate early interventions on their campuses to raise completion rates. In the national report, the aggregate findings of the study are reported separately for private vs. public, two-year vs. four-year institutions.

Among the highlights of this national study:

  •     Overall, 95 percent of incoming freshmen last year expressed a strong desire to finish their education.
  •     Already at the beginning of their classes, 11.5 percent of incoming freshmen intended to transfer to other institutions.
  •     18 percent of incoming students requested personal counseling services.
  •     22 percent of incoming students wondered if a college education is really worth the time, money, and effort that they are being asked to put into it.
  •     27 percent of incoming students indicated they had serious financial problems.
  •     43 percent of incoming students of color (Hispanic students and African American students) requested training to improve their reading skills.
  •     73 percent of incoming first-generation freshmen requested help with “selecting an educational plan that will prepare me to get a good job.”
  •     Term-by-term attrition data for the first four terms of college show substantial attrition continues into terms two, three, and four for two-year and four-year institutions.

“Motivational barriers to completion must be understood in the context of the different populations of students on college campuses,” notes Mari Normyle, assistant vice president for retention solutions at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “At the beginning of college, there is an important window of opportunity for colleges and universities to more fully understand, and address, these barriers, but it is also critical to develop an ongoing plan that extends across the first four terms of college, based on the data.”

For a copy of the 16-page report, visit http://www.RuffaloNL.com/Motivation2016.

For more information on student motivation, additional reports are available at http://www.RuffaloNL.com/Motivation.

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About Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Ruffalo Noel Levitz provides higher education and nonprofit organizations with technology-enabled services, software, and consulting for enrollment and fundraising management. Since 1973, Ruffalo Noel Levitz has partnered with more than 3,000 colleges and universities and numerous nonprofit clients worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.RuffaloNL.com.

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