The relationship between factors that influence college choice and persistence in Longhorn Opportunity Scholarship recipients at the University of Texas at Austin
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Although students choose their colleges for a variety of reasons, lowincome, first-generation, and minority students are often limited in their choices. Furthermore, even when those students do attend college, their persistence rates are generally lower than those of traditional students. This study examines the relationship between factors that influence choice and persistence in recipients of the Longhorn Opportunity Scholarship (LOS), a scholarship given to students from Texas high schools that are under-represented at the University of Texas at Austin (U.T. Austin), the flagship university of the University of Texas System. LOS students are usually low-income, thus, the scholarship offers these students an opportunity to attend a university they otherwise might not be able to attend. Furthermore, the academic and social support offered by U.T. Austin’s Longhorn Scholars Program increases the likelihood these students will graduate. In this study, a qualitative methodology called Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA), developed by Norvell Northcutt at U.T. Austin, was used to study the relationship between choice and persistence in LOS recipients. One focus group of LOS freshmen addressed the question of why they chose U.T. Austin, while another focus group of LOS seniors addressed the question of what factors helped them persist. Understanding the relationship between choice and persistence for these students should assist university administrators in understanding what qualities attract talented low-income, first-generation and/or minority students to an institution, and if those same factors or others play a role in their persistence. If the students’ pre-matriculation expectations are met by the university and these choice factors are similar to those factors that ensure persistence, then administrators can assume that programs such as the Longhorn Scholars Program are instrumental in the persistence of quality low-income, firstgeneration, and/or minority students.