The Retention of College Students with Learning Disabilities Open Access
This study explored the characteristics and retention decisions of students with learning disabilities (LD) at four-year institutions in the United States. This dissertation provided a generalizable picture of these students by employing a nationally representative dataset that was collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Descriptive statistics examined the gender, ethnicity, and age of students with LD and those with no disability. Additionally, the institutional departure decisions of these two samples were quantified. Inferential statistics determined if students with LD were significantly different from students with no disability in academic integration and social integration. Finally, a logistic regression determined the predictive ability of these constructs on the departure decisions of students with LD.The three major findings of this dissertation were largely not expected. First, ethnicity was found to be not homogeneous across disability status. A greater percentage of students with LD were found to be white (81.10%) compared with students with no disability (67.50%). Students with LD were found to be more than six times less likely to be African-American (1.70%) than students with no disability (10.80%). Second, this dissertation found that students with LD dropped out at low rates. Of those students who enrolled in a four-year institution in 2004 who had LD, 75.20% continued to be enrolled or had attained a degree by 2006, compared with 68.80% of students with no disability. Students with LD were also less likely to leave the system of higher education (no degree, no transfer) than students with no disability, 5.00% and 12.70% respectively. Third, in contrast to what might be predicted based on established literature (Aitken, 1982), students with LD did not show lower social integration despite high academic integration. Students with LD were significantly more academically integrated than students with no disability (t = 2.77, p<.05), but similarly socially integrated (t = 1.34, p>.05). The study's findings revealed suggestions for future research. Additionally, suggestions for practice for high school teachers, senior administrators at four-year institutions, and disability services providers were proposed. The conclusions of this dissertation are generalizable to students with LD at four-year institutions in the United States.
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