Predicting the in-term persistence of community college English-as-a-second-language students

Carolyn Tonge, Florida International University


The English-as-a-second-language (ESL) community college student population has increased notably in the past decade, but a decreasing number of these students are completing courses, programs, or degrees (Erisman & Looney, 2008). These students come to college with unique background experiences, and once in college, deal with challenging linguistic, academic, and social integration issues. Though they are not linguistically homogenous, and they do not have a common purpose, ESL students share the common goal of attending community college to learn to speak English (Szelényi & Chang, 2002). Course completion is a primary measure of progress toward that goal, and is therefore an issue of concern for both ESL students and community colleges, which continue to be the access point for language-minority students progressing into higher education (Laden, 2004). The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors that predict in-term persistence of community college ESL students. A mixed methods research design consisting of two phases was utilized, and participants in this study were ESL students enrolled in a large community college in south Florida. Phase 1 students completed the Community College ESL Student Questionnaire (CCSEQ), which collected demographic data and data on entry characteristics, academic integration, and social integration. Discriminant and descriptive analyses were used to report the data collected in Phase I. Phase 2 students were a matching cohort of completing and non-completing students who participated in semi-structured interviews at the end of the term. Data collected in the interviews were analyzed thematically, using a constant comparative method as described by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Students’ self reported demographic data, background characteristics, goal commitment, and integration factors on the CCSEQ showed no significance between the students who completed the term and the students who did not complete the term. However, several differentiating themes emerged from the interview data, which indicated differences in goal commitment and integration between the two groups. The focus of non-completers on getting good grades rather than completing the course, and the commitment of completers to the goal of finishing the class in order to go forward, both raise questions for future research studies.

Subject Area

Community college education|English as a Second Language|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Tonge, Carolyn, "Predicting the in-term persistence of community college English-as-a-second-language students" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3472037.