Background: While literature is abundant on factors associated with community college student outcomes, limited attention has been paid to what shapes educational expectations after students enroll, and how these expectations are linked to educational progress. To address this gap, Weidman’s undergraduate socialization theory is particularly relevant, as this theory not only applies to traditional-age college students, but also to adults of varying ages who constantly adapt themselves to changing circumstances, which is characteristic of community college students.
Purpose: Informed by Weidman’s theory, this study examines the following questions: First, what sources of socialization play a role in shaping students’ educational expectations after they enroll at a community college? Second, in what ways are educational expectations and sources of socialization related to students’ educational progress?
Research Design: The research involves an analytical sample of 979 students enrolled at a public two-year college in a Midwestern state in spring 2012. The study relies on survey data, collected using the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), along with students’ enrollment records. Factor analyses were first applied to extract a theoretically sound factor structure aligned with the study’s conceptual underpinning, followed by a structural equation modeling analysis to answer the two research questions.
Findings: The undergraduate socialization model shows validity based on the study’s sample. Results indicate that socialization processes underlying transfer expectations versus completion expectations are distinct from each other. While socialization that concentrates on the interpersonal, social domain tends to foster student expectations to complete a community college credential, these socialization sources do not matter much for promoting transfer expectations, which are largely subject to influences of socialization processes with a distinct academic focus. In addition, both completion and transfer expectations positively influenced educational progress. When educational expectations were accounted for, only a limited number of socialization sources exerted a direct influence on educational progress, as part of the socialization effect was conveyed indirectly through educational and, particularly, completion expectations.
Conclusions: This study reveals the value of understanding community college students’ educational expectations and progress through the lens of socialization. Findings from this research illuminate the critical need to differentiate among varieties of educational expectations and understand the different socialization processes shaping these expectations. In addition, community college leaders should focus on cultivating positive educational expectations and beliefs, as well as assisting students in finding the paths aligned with their expectations.