Strangers in a strange land: A study of first-year student term-to-term persistence at a California community college

The purpose of this study was to examine factors that influence first-year student persistence at a California community college. The researcher designed and implemented a mixed method, sequential explanatory study comprised of an initial quantitative phase followed by a qualitative phase. The quantitative phase entailed statistical analysis of data to be collected in an online survey of first-year students at a community college and administered to the selected students at the beginning of the second semester. The qualitative component included a representative sample of first year college students from the quantitative group and utilized individual interviews to explore in depth students’ decisions to persist beyond their first-years of community college. The study was conducted at a California community college located in an area with a diverse population and a low college persistence rate. Personal and professional goals scored the highest rating of importance in the survey, and interviews supported this finding with participants mentioning their goals more than any other factor. Results suggest that this group of students found meaning in their goals and used their visions for the future to persist through any hardships they encountered in their first-year of community college.