The effects of cultural distance on student socialization and departure decisions

Kandell W Malocsay, Florida International University


Organizational socialization theory and university student retention literature support the concept that social integration influences new recruits' level of satisfaction with the organization and their decision to remain. This three-phase study proposes and tests a Cultural Distance Model of student retention based on Tinto's (1975) Student Integration Model, Louis' (1980) Model of Newcomer Experience, and Kuh and Love's (2000) theory relating cultural distance to departure from the organization. The main proposition tested in this study was that the greater the cultural distance, the greater the likelihood of early departure from the organization. Accordingly, it was inferred that new recruits entering the university culture experience some degree of social and psychological distance. The extent of the distance correspondingly influences satisfaction with the institution and intent to remain for subsequent years. The model was tested through two freshman student surveys designed to examine the effects of cultural distance on non-Hispanics at a predominantly Hispanic, urban, public university. The first survey was administered eight weeks into their first Fall semester and the second at the end of their first year. Student retention was determined through their re-enrollment for the second Fall semester. Path analysis tested the viability of the hypothesis relating cultural distance to satisfaction and retention as suggested in the model. Logistic regression tested the model's predictive power. Correlations among variables were significant, accounting for 54% of variance in students' decisions to return for the second year with 96% prediction accuracy. Initial feelings of high cultural distance were related to increased dissatisfaction with social interactions and institutional choice at the end of the first year and students' intention not to re-enroll. Path analysis results supported the view that the construct of culture distance incorporates both social and psychological distance, and is composed of beliefs of institutional fit with one's cultural expectations, individual comfort with the fit, and the consequent sense of “belonging” or identifying with the institution.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational sociology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Malocsay, Kandell W, "The effects of cultural distance on student socialization and departure decisions" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3165163.