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Postsecondary Institutional Use of a Yearly Academic Quality Improvement Program and Its Relationship with Enrollment Price and Student Persistence through Graduation Open Access

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To address the issues of affordability and student persistence through graduation, some institutions of higher education have embraced the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) program. The fact that several of these institutions have subsequently shown improvements in affordability and student retention suggests that other colleges and universities that have adopted the Baldrige framework or a Baldrige style approach to institutional management may also be making improvements in the same institutional outcomes. However, to date, little research has been conducted to measure whether these institutions are improving in affordability and retention. To help close this gap in research, the present study investigated to what extent participating in a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) based program improves affordability and degree completion. The study’s four research questions asked whether an institution’s participation in a MBNQA-based program was associated with the institution’s first-year, full-time, degree/credential-seeking undergraduate students’ (a) net enrollment cost, (b) student debt, (c) the likelihood of degree completion, and (d) the institution’s educational expense per degree. Data for the period 2000 to 2013 were gathered for 870 colleges and universities accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Of these institutions, 167 AQIP/Baldrige-participating institutions were compared by regression analysis to 703 non-participating institutions concerning several dependent variables related to student costs or student retention and graduation. After controlling for year, institutional characteristics, and student demographics, results indicated that an institution’s participation in a MBNQA based program was associated with lower in-state tuition and fees (-$187), decreased student first-year student retention (-1.1%), increased student persistence (.9%), and decreased 150% graduation rates (-2.1%) or students graduating on or before 3yrs for 2-year intuitions and 4yrs for 4-year institutions. However, MBNQA based program participation was not statistically significantly associated with out-of-state tuition and fees, percentage of students receiving loans, average student loan amount, and institutional expense per degree.

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