Postsecondary enrollment delay and associated persistence outcomes
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As exposure to college becomes increasingly integral to individual growth and societal economic vitality, the delay of postsecondary enrollment may be undertaken at a cost to both the individual and society. In addition, this delay represents a rupture in an ideally seamless P-16 educational continuum. Using a combined model of college choice adjusted to account for immediate versus delayed enrollment as well as persistence and graduation, this study addressed whether a student’s postsecondary enrollment delay may contribute to his or her persistence or inability to persist once enrolled in college. To this end, a unique dataset was constructed to reflect student profiles from high school through college and was used to analyze the college-going behaviors of the 2004 cohort of Texas public high school graduates, as well as their participation in the workforce. Descriptive statistics were assembled to characterize immediate enrollers in contrast to delayed enrollers, especially in regard to demographic characteristics and academic preparation. The role of delay in college persistence was measured through the undertaking of eight logistic regression models that accounted for the role of demographic characteristics, academic preparation, and higher education institutional choice, along with the delay factor, on persistence. Findings revealed that students considered at-risk and who are from minority groups are likely to delay enrollment. As well, students who are less academically prepared are overrepresented among delayers. The results of the logistic regression models reveal, moreover, that whatever disadvantage these particular groups experienced in regard to enrolling in postsecondary education, it may have been exacerbated by their delayed enrollment: delayers, in all models, were less likely to persist in college once they enrolled. For the policymaker, educator, or P-16 administrator, this study underscores the need to ensure that students’ academic careers receive early and frequent intervention, in case they decide they wish to enroll in college after graduation. Groups that lack certain types of social capital that facilitate access to postsecondary education ought to be provided appropriate counseling. Above all, the study highlights that access to college is simply not enough if college completion is as important as college enrollment.