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CAUSES OF DROPOUT AMONG ADULT STUDENTS OF NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES (A CASE STUDY OF UNI-PORT AND RIVER STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNILOGY)

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CAUSES OF DROPOUT AMONG ADULT STUDENTS OF NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES (A CASE STUDY OF UNI-PORT AND RIVER STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNILOGY)

 

 

                                         ABSTRACT

This paper reports the results of a survey conducted to examine the root causes leading to student dropout at a Nigeria distance education university. Data was gathered from two different courses – an undergraduate course leading to a Bachelors degree in Informatics (characterized by high dropout rates), and a postgraduate course leading to a Masters degree in education (characterized by low dropout rates). A comparative analysis of these two different courses revealed important similarities in dropout percentages and the reasons cited by students for dropping out. Our analysis also revealed important differences as well. This paper presents the results of a survey designed to investigate the relationship between dropout with intrinsic (student-related) factors such as sickness, work/ school conflict etc., and extrinsic (institutional-related) factors such as study methods and materials, educational approach, and tutor influence.

This study traces the root causes of dropout rates in one post-graduate course “Studies in Education,” offered by the Uni-port and Rivers state university of science and technology . From our research findings, it was found that the main cause of dropping out stem from a combination of adult learners’ obligations, specifically balancing their academic workload with their employment commitments and family obligations (mainly for female students). The second reason for dropout rates among adult distance education learners include students’ miscalculation of the available time for studying and their underestimation of the extra effort required for effective learning. These reasons can be compared to the educational material, which, in general, was not considered overly difficult and did not appear to compel students to abandon their studies.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The establishment of Uni-port and Rivers state university of science and technology around the world aim to address the educational and re-educational needs of adult learners and workforce by providing a high level of studies (Evans and Lockwood, 1994, Evans and Nation, 1996). Uni-port and Rivers state university of science and technology typically develop educational activities underpinned by an educational philosophy fundamentally different from those held by conventional educational systems. The main aspect of this philosophy is to promote “life long education” and to provide adults with “a second educational chance” (Keegan, 1993). The educational method used in an open university system is most typically “distance learning.”

 

High student dropout rates have been reported in educational institutions using open and distance learning methods (Cardon and Christensen, 1998). Students dropout of their studies for a numerous reasons and factors (Eisenberg and Dowsett, 1990) ranging from academic, to non-academic, to other factors (Jones and Watson, 1990). Factors include the degree of difficulty of courses and subjects selected by students; miscalculation of time students need to study (Sponder 1990); health problems (Kaye and Rumble, 1991); and family problems (Allen, 1994), to name a few.

 

Dropout rates reported by open and distance learning (ODL) institutions are typically higher than those reported by conventional universities. Within ODL educational systems, dropout rates also vary depending on the educational system adopted by each institution and selected subjects of study (Narasimharao, 1999). In Europe, dropout rates in distance education programs typically range from 20 percent to 30 percent (Rumble, 1992) or even higher in Northern America (Schlosser and Anderson, 1994). Asian countries have recorded rates as high as 50 percent (Shin and Kim, 1999; Narasimharao, 1999). A number of models, such as Tinto’s model of student retention, (Bernard and Amundsen, 1989), have been developed to help explain the dropout phenomenon in higher education. Despite the soaring cost of higher education, older adult students are apparently still keen on finishing their degrees. A recent survey showed that more than 8 million non-traditional students — defined as those 23 and older — are now enrolled in the nation’s colleges. However, far too many of them won’t complete their courses of study and derive the benefits that come along with having earned a degree, which include a lifetime of higher earnings and greater self esteem. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that just slightly more than a quarter — 28 percent — of full-time and a mere 5 percent of part-time older students go on to finish their college studies.

 

What’s holding them back? As the chart below shows, more than two-thirds of the nearly 4,500 non-traditional students surveyed by the Apollo Research Institute expressed concern about college-related expenses as a big contributor to dropping out. About two-thirds of all college students borrow money to obtain a bachelor’s degree, according to a survey of 2007-08 graduates by the Department of Education. Of those, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported (via The New York Times). Tuition costs vary, but averaged $21,447 during the 2011-12 school year at public colleges, while private colleges charged an average of $42,224. Beyond concern about paying for school, other big stress producers among adult students include anxiety about spending sufficient time with loved ones and friends and having the intellectual capacity to complete coursework, according to Apollo, which is affiliated with the for-profit University of Phoenix, one of the nation’s largest issuers of online degrees. (The college, which operates in 40 states and internationally and gears its programs toward working adults, has been the subject of federal lawsuits and fines in recent years related to its enrollment practices and course offerings.)

 

Having a plan to deal with these sources of stress can go a long way toward helping older students finish college, says Caroline Molina-Ray, executive director of research at Apollo, which recently published a study that examined the factors that inhibit adult college students’ ability to finish degrees.

 

The study focused not so much on the rate of completion, she says, but on what kinds of issues adult students face, and how different generations of students cope. It may sound cliched, but Molina-Ray says that it pays to keep “your eyes on the prize,” and to remember that “there’s a big personal and likely financial reward for going to school.”

 

With that in mind, she offers these tips for a nontraditional student planning to pursue an associate, bachelor’s or other degree:

 

Recognize that going back to school is a major life decision and takes commitment, similar to losing weight or getting married or looking for a job.

Make a plan for all of your resources — finances, time, energy, family and friends. Once you know which resources you have and need, you can develop a strategy during the coming weeks and months to use those resources wisely.

Engage your family and friends in your effort to return to school, by making it meaningful and valuable for them, too. That may mean, for example, taking children to the library with you when doing research; doing your homework in the same space as your kids; and sharing what you’ve learned.

Learn which resources your college offers. Those include such things as tutorial services, online study aids and other resources, such as day care, that can help adult students better manage competing commitments to school, work and family.

Check to see if your school has online chat rooms that allow you to communicate with faculty.

Don’t isolate yourself. Build a support network of classmates or co-workers who are also returning to school. Use social media sites, such as LinkedIn groups, to connect with others and share experiences and support. “People are willing to help and are willing to serve as sounding boards,” Molina-Ray says, “especially those who are going through the same experiences.”

1.2 PROBLEM OF THE STUDY

If university “involvement” (academic and social integration into university) and other factors reviewed have a significant effect on student outcomes, i.e. satisfaction, study achievement and dropping out, adults may very well experience different outcomes from higher education than their younger counterparts. This study aims at answering the questions whether there are differences between age groups and fields of education (faculties) of university students in relations to their: 1. Goal orientations in university studies; 2. Positive learning experiences; 3. Perceived academic stress; 4. Satisfaction with the quality of teacher-student interaction; 5. Drop-out rates and 6. Study achievements.

 

 

 

Procedures and the Subjects

 

The data used in this four-year longitudinal study were collected by using large-scale, multidimensional questionnaires administered to those students (N = 916) who enrolled in the University of Joensuu in the autumn 1995. The follow-up studies were conducted in 1996 and 1998. Part of the data, e.g., the students’ demographic and social background information, dropping out studies and learning outcomes (course marks), were collected from the university’s student records.

 

The information of the Likert-type questionnaires was reduced to scales of students’ goal-orientations, positive learning experiences, perceived academic stress and quality of teacher-student interaction. The scales were constructed with the help of principal component analysis (Afifi & Clark 1996). The reliability estimates of the scales was measured by using the Cronbach’s a-coefficient (Ary, Jacobs & Razavieh 1996). The initial items were keyed 1 – 5 with 1 meaning “totally disagree” and 5 “totally agree”.

 

Students’ goal-orientation (Rautopuro & Vaisanen 2000) was measured at the beginning of studies in 1995 and consisted of two sub-scales: occupational orientation and academic orientation. The occupational orientation (a = 0.62) included three reasons for selecting the field of study: “I wanted an occupation”, “well paid job in the future” and “secure post”. The scale academic orientation (a = 0.60) consisted of items “science is interesting”, “education itself” and “civilisation”. The scales concerning students’s positive learning experiences, perceived academic stress and quality of teacher-student interaction were constructed for the present study and are presented in Table 1. These three scales were constructed in each three phases of the study. Drop out of studies or student desertion are terms that speakers of Castilian Spanish have adopted to designate a variety of situations identified in the student’s educational process with a common denominator, that is: detention or interruption of studies before concluding them. This category includes:

 

  • involuntary drop out (for administrative non-fulfilment or violation of regulations);

 

  • leaving the degree program to begin another in the same institution;

 

  • leaving the degree program to begin another in another institution;

 

  • leaving one university to go to another to complete initiated studies;

 

  • giving up university studies to begin training itineraries outside of the university, or to join the workforce;

 

  • interrupting studies with the intention of returning to them in the future;

 

  • other possibilities.

 

The prolongation of studies, however, is more closely linked to the traditional concept of academic failure that De Miguel and Arias (1999) define as: the difference between the time invested and the time  theoretically predicted to finish one’s studies. This is one more of the many indicators, among which is also drop out, that have been defined to identify academic failure at university. Likewise, Latiesa (1992) designates two sources of failure: one, in a broad sense, referring to the rates of success, delay and drop out of studies (similar to the concept of De Miguel and Arias); and another in a strict sense, which refers to the students’ assessment (grades/marks) in the various subjects within their degree.

 

The situations identified are diverse, and the lack of clarity of terms frequently results in confusion and contradiction. University statistics usually identify a “case” of drop out as a student who has begun studies and, before concluding them, does not enrol in the same areas for two consecutive courses. Within this broad category, we find situations that cannot be classified as drop out of initial studies, and much less of university instruction, such as: students who complete their studies in another community or extra-community institution (an  initiative currently highly motivated by their own university: the programs SENECA, ERASMUS, etc.); or students who take a break in their instructional itinerary in order to enrich it with other educational or work experiences, a common practice of youths from other areas of Europe. (The average age of Spanish university students is the lowest in Europe. Pérez Díaz and Rodríguez, 2001). Concretely, in a recent study carried out by our research team (González  et al., 2005; Cabrera et al.,  2005), of the total registered students at the University of La Laguna in academic courses 1998/99 (undergraduate degree) and 1999/00 (associates degree), we found that 28% abandoned their initial studies, and of these, 32.7% began another degree in the same university, and 13.2% began other studies in another university; the remaining 54.1% abandoned the university indefinitely. In a similar study based on three degree majors (Cabrera et al., 2006), we found that of those who had abandoned their studies, 66% had enrolled in another degree program in the same university (ULL- University of La Laguna) and 4.2% had gone to another university; 30% had dropped out of university. Although it is certain that these figures are alarming, they allow the gross percentages of drop out to decrease by half. The data reflects a clear intention on the part of the student body to complete university studies, and therefore, we are not talking about university desertion, but about vocational or academic failure, when the change in degree major is provoked by a lack of success reflected by poor grades. From this perspective, the meaning of each situation of drop out can vary based on who defines or evaluates it.

 

For the university, however, any situation that impels a student to interrupt his/her studies must be viewed as failure because the educational objectives of the program imparted have not been achieved. The student, however, may view the interruption as success, if the decision is made, for example, to improve a situation of dissatisfaction, such as not liking the degree major. For that reason, the definition of drop out is closely linked to the goals or perspectives that each person has when initiating a course of study. These goals don’t necessarily have to coincide with obtaining a degree, but could be linked instead to the acquisition of credits necessary to obtain certifications having professional or other ends. These circumstances will be more frequent after the application of the Model of European Convergence, where the number of earned credits gains relevance (through various ways), and not the attainment of a certain degree. In this sense, there exists the paradox that a student can be in third-cycle studies without having an undergraduate or graduate degree.

 

But the percentage of students who abandon their chosen studies is continually growing. There exists a general consent that the high rates of drop out are indicative of low quality, and is therefore believed that the chosen university did not provide the necessary means for those who attempted but did not finish their expected degree. Certain measures must be applied before matriculation so that students can make vocational decisions in accordance with their personal profiles (previous formation, appropriate aptitudes for the subjects that they study, economic possibilities, vocational suitability of the selected studies, motivation, etc.). Measures must also be applied throughout the development of the course of study, adjusting the instructional strategies to the needs of the student (the suitability of subjects imparted to the number of credit-hours studied; materials and technologies placed within reach of the student; psycho-pedagogic support offered by the centre; etc.)

 

In the following section we will pause to analyse what personal, family, institutional and social elements have been identified as participating variables in the educational process causing a student to abandon studies. The grouping of drop out into categories would permit us to define different types of drop out with more accuracy. But given the shortage of empiric data on related variables, such as follow-up studies on students who abandon undergraduate degrees, we will refer to drop out in the broadest sense, that is: when a student begins a degree program and abandons it before obtaining the minimum requirements needed to obtain a certification that guarantees their training in the discipline. With the term “prolongation”, we will refer to situations in which the student invests more time working toward obtaining a degree than that which was foreseen in the original plan of studies.

1.3 OBJECTIVE  OF THE STUDY

  1. The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors and root causes leading student dropout.
  2. To assess the extent active taking part in optional components of the educational process lead students to interrupt their studies.
  3. To examine the “reasons why” students enrolled in two different distance education programs of study opted to dropout.
  4. To know the effect dropout to his future career of adult student.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION

  1. To what extent is student dropout due to intrinsic (related to the student) factors and to what extent is it due to extrinsic (non-student) factors? (e.g., study methods and materials)
  2. To what extent does actively taking part in optional components of the educational process lead students to interrupt their studies?
  3. To what extent do the educational materials and/ or tutors lead students to withdraw from their studies?
  4. Are there any similarities/ differences in dropout rates/ causes on different courses? And at what level would these be?

1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

H0: Students do not dropout  of university due to intrinsic (related to the student) factors and to what extent is it due to extrinsic (non-student) factors (e.g., study methods and materials).

H1: Students do dropout  of university due to intrinsic (related to the student) factors and to what extent is it due to extrinsic (non-student) factors (e.g., study methods and materials).

 

H0: Actively taking part in optional components of the educational process does not lead students to interrupt their studies.

H1: Actively taking part in optional components of the educational process  lead students to interrupt their studies.

H0: Educational materials and/ or tutors cannot  lead students to withdraw from their studies.

H1: Educational materials and/ or tutors can lead students to withdraw from their studies.

  • SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This entails the beneficiaries of this research work.. The topic which says the causes of dropout among adult students of Nigerian universities using  Uni-port and River state university of science and technology as a case study will be relevant to categories of such as entire  public, education students, lecturers and research institutions in Nigeria.

  • SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study is centered on causes of dropout among adult students of Nigerian universities (a case study of uni-port and River state university of science and technilogy)..

1.8  LIMITATION OF STUDY

Despite the limited scope of this study certain constraints were encountered during the research of this project.  Some of the constraints experienced by the researcher were given below:

  1. TIME: This was a major constraint on the researcher during the period of the work. Considering the limited time given for this study, there was not much time to give this research the needed attention.
  2. FINANCE: Owing to the financial difficulty prevalent in the country and it’s resultant prices of commodities, transportation fares, research materials etc. The researcher did not find it easy meeting all his financial obligations.

iii.  INFORMATION CONSTRAINTS: Nigerian researchers have never had it easy when it comes to obtaining necessary information relevant to their area of study from private business organization and even government agencies. uni-port and river state university of science and technilogy adult students find it difficult to reveal their internal operations. The primary information was collected through face-to-face interview getting the published materials on this topic meant going from one library to other which was not easy.

 

Although these problems placed limitations on the study,  but it did not prevent the researcher from carrying out a detailed and comprehensive research work on the subject matter.

1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS

School dropouts :Individuals who leave school prior to high school graduation can be defined as school dropouts. From the early 1960s into the twenty-first century, as universal secondary school attendance became the norm, such individuals were the subject of study by educators, educational researchers, and concerned policymakers in the United States. With some variation in local circumstances, they are of increasing concern around the world as the educational requirements for full participation in modern societies continue to increase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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