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Exploring Sources and Influences of Social Capital on Community College Students’ First-Year Success: Does Age Make a Difference?


by Xueli Wang, Kelly Wickersham, Yen Lee & Hsun-Yu Chan — 2018

Background/Context: Although numerous studies have emerged shedding light on community college student success, the enduring role of social capital is often overlooked. Furthermore, when conceptualizing social capital in the community college context and its diverse student population, age represents a unique form of diversity in these institutions that warrants further exploration.

Purpose: This research identifies the sources of social capital and the relationships between different sources of social capital and community college success, taking into account how the identified sources and relationships may vary based on age through the following questions: First, what are the major sources of social capital among first-year community college students, and how do sources of social capital vary based on age of students? Second, how do different sources of social capital influence first-year community college success? Third, how do influences of social capital on first-year community college success vary based on the age of students?

Research Design: Our study drew on Coleman’s conceptualization of social capital, along with survey, administrative, and transcript data from three 2-year colleges in a midwestern state. We performed factor analysis with invariance tests to investigate the sources of social capital among community college students and how the identified factor structure may vary by age. We further conducted a logistic regression to examine the relationship between social capital and community college student success across age.

Findings: Our findings indicate that social capital needs to be conceptualized differently for community college students across age because they indeed drew on multiple forms of social capital differently, and the sources of social capital that emerged in turn were related to student success in varied ways. Students under the age of 24 relied on institutional agents and academic interaction as dominant forms of social capital, whereas those over the age of 24 relied on significant other’s support. Students under the age of 24 were more likely to succeed if they frequently visited advisors for academic reasons. A low or high level of support for schoolwork was related to a higher chance of success for students between 24 and 29 years of age. For the students who were over 30 years old, a moderate level of engagement in their learning network and discussions with academic advisors was related to the lowest level of dropping out.

Conclusions: This study extends the social capital model by illuminating the varying types of social capital that students of different age groups engage with, particularly in the community college context, and pushes the boundaries of the knowledge base on how social capital functions in relation to student success in postsecondary education. The findings also elucidate new directions for research, policy, and practice in regard to cultivating and maximizing networks and information for community college students of all ages.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 10, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22249, Date Accessed: 6/23/2018 4:35:32 AM

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About the Author
  • Xueli Wang
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    E-mail Author
    XUELI WANG is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research interests center on college student pathways and success, with a focus on community colleges and undergraduate STEM education. Her recent work includes “Toward a Holistic Theoretical Model of Momentum for Community College Student Success,” published in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, and a coauthored piece, “Does Active Learning Contribute to Transfer Intent Among 2-Year College Students Beginning in STEM?” published in The Journal of Higher Education.
  • Kelly Wickersham
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    E-mail Author
    KELLY WICKERSHAM is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research interests revolve around evolving community college student pathways and success, including student pathways in STEM. Her recent publications include coauthored pieces, “Turning Math Remediation Into ‘Homeroom’: Contextualization as a Motivational Environment for Community College Students in Remedial Math,” published in The Review of Higher Education, and “Math Requirement Fulfillment and Educational Success of Community College Students,” published in Community College Review.
  • Yen Lee
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    E-mail Author
    YEN LEE is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research interests focus on nonnormal data generation, Bayesian statistics, and machine learning. A recent publication is a coauthored piece, “Construct Validity of the Activities of Daily Living Rating Scale III in Patients with Schizophrenia,” published in PLoS One.
  • Hsun-Yu Chan
    Texas A&M University–Commerce
    E-mail Author
    HSUN-YU CHAN is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at Texas A&M University–Commerce. His research interests center on adolescent development, including peer influence and parental interaction, as well as community college student self-efficacy and success, particularly in STEM fields of study. His recent publications include coauthored articles “A Nuanced Look at Women in STEM Fields at Two-Year Colleges: Factors That Shape Female Students' Transfer Intent,” published in Frontiers in Psychology, and “Optimizing Technical Education Pathways: Does Dual-Credit Course Completion Predict Students’ College and Labor Market Success?” in the Journal of Career and Technical Education.
 
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