The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2008 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

FACTORS OF IMPORTANCE IN THE PERSISTENCE OF NON-NURSING HEALTH SCIENCE STUDENTS ENROLLED IN COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Christy Kane1



Background: The demand for qualified healthcare practitioners continues to increase throughout the United States. Faculty members must not only concentrate on recruiting qualified applicants but assist enrolled students in their persistence to graduation. Student support is a known factor that influences persistence. Historically, colleges have invested significant dollars in student support services while fewer dollars are spent in faculty development efforts. The present study examined the importance level of college services, support/encouragement from others, and faculty quality on the persistence of non-nursing health science students in community colleges.

Methods: A random cluster sample of 324 non-nursing health science or NNHS (Respiratory Therapy, Radiologic Technology, Paramedical Science, and Surgical Technology) students was drawn from two statewide community college systems. The participants completed a version of the Adult Student Persistence Questionnaire or ASPQ (Greenberg. 1997; Heath-Thornton, 2002). Data analysis included descriptive statistics to determine the importance level of each factor.

Results: A total of 206 usable instruments (of 324 mailed instruments) resulted in a 64% usable return rate. Eleven high importance factors emerged as either important or very important in the student's completion of an associate's degree in the health sciences. A large number of students (greater than 84% of the students) surveyed rated seven faculty quality items as well as items regarding the support and encouragement of parents, children, spouse, and instructors as important or very important to their persistence. Few students (less than 46% of the students) rated five items as important or very important making these items of low importance in the persistence of these students. These items included the college services of student activities, counseling, tutoring, and career counseling as well as the support/encouragement of "other" college staff.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that faculty quality and support foster the persistence of NNHS student in the community college setting. Family support (from spouse, parent, and children) is also important in the persistence of these students. In addition to investing dollars in student services, community college administrators should increase the funding for faculty development which may further enhance faculty quality leading to greater student persistence.