Achievement and integration factors related to the academic success and intent to persist of college freshmen and sophomores with learning disabilities

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2007-03-28

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The number of students with learning disabilities (LD) attending college has increased over the past several decades, yet outcomes including graduation rates continue to lag behind those of non-disabled students. In addition to students' background characteristics and past academic achievement, Tinto's (1975; 1993) constructs of academic and social integration have been the focus of much of the research identifying factors associated with college student success and persistence. Previous research has validated the impact of academic and social integration on college student persistence and success; however, these factors have not been studied with a sample of students who have disabilities.

In this investigation hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to study the relative influence of pre-college achievement and college integration variables on the academic success and intent to persist of college freshmen and sophomores with LD, while controlling for background characteristics. Participants were 97 freshmen and sophomores with LD at a large, public university in the southwestern United States. Students completed a demographic questionnaire as well as portions of the Freshmen Year Survey (Milem & Berger, 1997) to measure integration and intent to persist. High school GPA, SAT scores, and college GPA were obtained from university records.

Academic, social and total integration were not unique significant predictors of college GPA beyond background characteristics and past academic achievement. However, total integration was a significant predictor of intent to persist, accounting for 17 percent unique variance. Academic integration was a significant predictor of intent to persist accounting for 12 percent unique variance. Further, social integration was a significant predictor of intent to persist, accounting for 18 percent unique variance beyond background characteristics and past academic achievement and 7 percent unique variance in the model that also included academic integration.

These findings suggest academic and social integration are promising constructs to explain the persistence of college students with LD. Implications of this study include the need for continued research on the role of academic and social integration for college students with LD, as well as on the practices of high school and college personnel in preparing students with LD for college.

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