International Student Persistence at a Faith-Based Institution
AbstractAs college and university campuses continue to increase access and diversify their enrollments, more research must examine the experiences of specific student populations and at specific institutions, particularly as these relate to student success in terms of persistence. Dominant persistence theories are often inadequate to explain the behaviors of today's diverse students. Recent research has attempted to broaden these theories by examining factors such as campus climate, sense of belonging, validation, and cultural background to determine their impact on persistence. Institutional characteristics play a critical role in students' academic and social experiences and must also be considered. Similarly, additional research is needed that examines factors affecting persistence beyond the first year. This qualitative study explored the experiences of international students in their senior year at a faith-based institution to identify persistence factors. Although international students are significant contributors to institutional diversity in U.S. higher educational institutions, relatively little is known about their persistence behaviors. The study contributes to the literature by focusing on student experiences beyond the first year and at a particular type of institution. The findings partly support prevailing persistence theories, though in unexpected ways. Central findings indicate that international student persistence could be improved by increasing vision, validation, and spiritual engagement. Creating a campus climate that enhances these factors demonstrates how institutions can change to support diversity.