Graduate program culture and intention to persist: Working adults in cohort and non-cohort programs

Diana Mitchell Little, Florida International University


Cohort programs have been instituted at many universities to accommodate the growing number of mature adult graduate students who pursue degrees while maintaining multiple commitments such as work and family. While it is estimated that as many as 40–60% of students who begin graduate study fail to complete degrees, it is thought that attrition may be even higher for this population of students. Yet, little is known about the impact of cohorts on the learning environment and whether cohort programs affect graduate student retention. ^ Retention theory stresses the importance of the academic department, quality of faculty-student relationships and student involvement in the life of the academic community as critical determinants in students' decisions to persist to degree completion. However, students who are employed full-time typically spend little time on campus engaged in the learning environment. Using academic and social integration theory, this study examined the experiences of working adult graduate students enrolled in cohort (CEP) and non-cohort (non-CEP) programs and the influence of these experiences on intention to persist. ^ The Graduate Program Context Questionnaire was administered to graduate students (N = 310) to examine measures of academic and social integration and intention to persist. Sample t tests and ANOVAs were conducted to determine whether differences in perceptions could be identified between cohort and non-cohort students. Multiple linear regression was used to identify variables that predict students' intention to persist. ^ While there were many similarities, significant differences were found between CEP and non-CEP student groups on two measures. CEP students rated peer-student relationships higher and scored higher on the intention to persist measure than non-CEP students. The psychological integration measure, however, was the strongest predictor of intention to persist for both the CEP and non-CEP groups. This study supports the research literature which suggests that CEP programs encourage the development of peer-student relationships and promote students' commitment to persistence. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Little, Diana Mitchell, "Graduate program culture and intention to persist: Working adults in cohort and non-cohort programs" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3377928.