The Impact of Program-Specific Orientation Courses On Student Retention and Academic Progress At A for-Profit, Postsecondary institution

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Higher Edu and Learning Technology

Date of Award

Summer 2013


The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not a difference existed in student retention and academic performance levels between or among program-specific orientation courses and general-population orientation courses at a postsecondary proprietary institution. This study specifically examined student retention and academic performance data between 2009 and 2011 as kept by the Registrar's office of a proprietary institution located in north central Texas. Data were categorized based on student attendance in either a program-specific college orientation/freshman seminar course, or a general-population college orientation/freshman seminar course. Data were subcategorized based on retention and academic performance. A Mann-Whitney U test was used to identify academic performance across orientation types. A Chi-square test for association was used to identify variations in student persistence across orientation types. The results of the Chi-square test for association demonstrated that there was a statistically significant association between student persistence and type of freshman orientation seminar completed, � = -0.43, p = .050. Based on the output of the Mann-Whitney U test, there was a statistically significant difference in GPA scores between general-population (Mdn = 2.20) and program-specific (Mdn = 2.50), U = 410,144, z = 3.254, p = .001. Based on the findings of this study, it is apparent that the use of a semester-long, program-specific orientation course at the proprietary institution being studied had a more positive impact on student retention than the general-population orientation course. These findings concur with the findings from prior research, which indicate that major program or career focused orientation courses - those that give students a clear understanding of the industry they have chosen to enter as well as a defined path to their intended career goals - have a positive impact on both student GPA scores and retention. To help increase student retention and GPA scores at 4-year degree granting institutions, the researcher recommends a focused review and implementation of extended-length, program-specific orientation seminars.


Lee "Rusty" Waller

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Technology