PREDICTORS OF DELAYED COLLEGE ENROLLMENT AND THE IMPACT OF SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS

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2005-04-25

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This study contributes to our understanding of the decision of students to delay enrollment in college by building on the work of Hearn (1992). This study uses constructs from models of traditional college student enrollment (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2001; Perna, 2000; St. John, 2003), and data from the NELS:88/2000 longitudinal study of 1992 high school graduates. Descriptive analyses are used to determine the appropriate break point between immediate and delayed enrollment, as well as compare differences in student characteristics based on timing of enrollment. Multinomial logit regression is used to determine the predictors of delaying college enrollment rather than enrolling in college immediately after high school or not enrolling, and to explore if socioeconomic status is related to timing of college enrollment after controlling for other variables.

At least six conclusions may be drawn from this study. First, the appropriate break point between immediate and delayed enrollment is the end of the calendar year that a student graduated from high school. This study also reveals the value of looking at a delayed group in comparison to immediate enrollment and no enrollment, since there are differences among all three groups for measures such as background characteristics, academic preparation and achievement, and social and cultural capital. Third, a combined model of college access based on traditional students (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; Perna, 2000; St. John, 2003) is appropriate for examining the predictors of both immediate and delayed enrollment in college relative to no enrollment. Fourth, measures of social and cultural capital are related to the timing of college enrollment but seem to be relatively more important in the decision to enroll immediately than in the decision to delay enrollment. Fifth, graduates who delay enrollment average fewer resources and weaker preparation than graduates who enroll immediately, but average more resources and better preparation than graduates who do not enroll. Finally, even after controlling for other variables, socioeconomic status is related to timing of college enrollment. Students who enroll immediately as well as those who delay enrollment have higher socioeconomic status than those who do not enroll, with those who enroll immediately having higher socioeconomic status than those who delay enrollment.

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