Zahn, Cindy Lou; Ph.D.
Program of Education;
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
A Study of Academically At-Risk Freshmen and Sophomores in Four-Year Institutions in the Upper Midwest
Major Professor: Dr. Myron Eighmy
Given the ever-increasing cost of higher education, avoiding student failure is both an academic matter and a financial matter. The waste that attends failure, both to the institution and to the students, warrants that all due effort be made to insure students’ academic success.
The purpose of this study was to identify programs and services that are offered at four-year institutions in the upper Midwest for freshmen and sophomore students who are experiencing academic difficulties, and determine if those students are seeking help from the services that the institutions provide.
Institutions which participated in the study included Valley City State University, Valley City, ND; Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD; University of Minnesota-Crookston, Crookston, MN; Dickinson State University, Dickinson, ND and Black Hills state University, Spearfish, SD. Participants form these institutions included academic affairs officials and students with freshmen or sophomore status.
A review of selected literature on the definition of “at-risk” students was examined for relevance, as was a look at programs and services that have been historically provided for students who are experiencing, or are likely to experience failure.
Data collected were subjected to analysis including descriptive statistics, cross tabulations, ANOVA, independent t tests, and a Chi-square. The data were further analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS).
There is evidence to support the conclusion that a variety of programs exist to help the at-risk” student. They are, however, not offered to the same degree by all institutions. Neither is there a concise definition of the term “at-risk,” either in the literature or among practicing professionals. Practitioners would do well to look at programs offered by neighboring (or regional) institutions as a means of improving their offerings for the “at-risk” student.
The study also has implications for future investigators: a different population to include larger, and private institutions might yield further insights; a closer look at measurement of the effectiveness of remedial programs might avoid the duplication of failing programs; and, given the importance that the use of “informal assistance” shows in the study, the ways and means of nurturing these specific services might be examined.