Use and perceptions of student services by first year electronics technology students

The tremendous growth in the telecommunication and wireless fields caused by the popularity of the Internet, combined with constant technological innovations, has caused a high demand for skilled workers (Casacchia, 2018). In the Sacramento region this demand is growing at a record pace. Unfortunately, like other states, California cannot find enough skilled high-tech employees. This has forced high technology companies to rely on skilled workers from other countries to fill vacant positions (Werner, 2014). Career Technical Education programs at community colleges prepare students for successful careers. This enables them to graduate with an Associates in Science Degree in Electronic Technology and earn a quality salary with minimum educational costs in as little as two years. However, the Electronics Technology program at American River College (ARC) is experiencing high student dropout rates during their first-semester. This not only negatively affects enrollment for the college and program but also impedes the potential for upward social mobility for students impacted by opportunity gaps who enroll but drop out. This particularly impacts first generation and low-income students. This dissertation examines the factors contributing to the success and failure of college students and seeks to answer the overarching research question: Why do so many first semester students enrolled in the Electronics Technology program at American River College drop out of class during the first semester? This dissertation is framed by Tinto’s (1993) Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure, which posits that students who consider themselves part of the college environment are more likely to stay in college and complete their educational program. Tinto (1993) identified active participation in student services as a primary element responsible for students feeling connected to the college and increased student retention (Tinto, 1993). A quantitative research design was selected. A survey was developed and administered to first semester Electronics Technology students to assess their knowledge, perceptions and utilization of student services at American River College. The study sought to examine whether their enrollment decisions were influenced by participation in student service programs. The findings of the study confirmed that although students were aware of existing student services, and perceived them to be academically helpful, they were not utilizing them. Based on the factors contributing to their lack of usage by students, this dissertation concludes with recommendations to improve access to and delivery of student services to students. Specific recommendations are made for the Electronics Technology program at American River College in order to retain and graduate skilled workers from the program.