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Assessing Attrition of Students within Barrett, the Honors College

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This thesis project examines the likely factors that cause students to drop out of Barrett, the Honors College. Honors literature regarding retention and attrition suggests four areas encompassing individual student attributes and honors program characteristics which may impact a student's

This thesis project examines the likely factors that cause students to drop out of Barrett, the Honors College. Honors literature regarding retention and attrition suggests four areas encompassing individual student attributes and honors program characteristics which may impact a student's decision to stay or leave an Honors College. The primary question in focus is, "Why do students leave the Honors College?" followed by the tertiary questions of, "what can be done to mitigate this occurrence?" and, "how does this affect the quality of an honors education?" Assessing attrition can be broken down into biographical, cognitive-behavioral, socio-environmental, and institutional-instrumental components. Students who graduated with honors and those who did not graduate with honors were assessed on these four components through survey methods and qualitative interviews to investigate specific reasons why students leave the honors program. The results indicated a wide array of reasons impacting student attrition, the most significant being negative perceptions towards (1) honors courses and contracts, (2) difficulty completing a thesis project, and (3) finding little to no value in "graduating with honors." Each of these reasons reflect the institutional-instrumental component of student attrition, making it the most salient group of reasons why students leave the Honors College. The socio-environmental component also influences student attrition through peer influence and academic advisor support, though this was found to be within the context of institutional-instrumental means. This project offers solutions to ameliorate each of the four components of attrition by offering standardized honors contracts and more mandatory honors classes, mandatory thesis preparatory courses instead of workshops, and emphasizing the benefit Barrett gives to students as a whole. These solutions aim at increasing graduation rates for future honors students at Barrett as well as improving the overall quality of an honors education.

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2017-05