A 1975 research article by Vincent Tinto,“Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research,” spurred more than twenty-five years of dialogue on student retention and persistence in higher education. Though it has been attacked by some and re- vised by Tinto himself, his work has remained the dominant sociological theory of how students navigate through our postsecondary system.
More than a quarter century later, the issues of student retention and persistence are as pertinent as they were when Tinto first published his student integration model. In the 1970s and 1980s, public policy was focused primarily on access, with federal and state legislation aimed at reducing barriers to higher education. By the mid-1990s, the discussion moved from access to issues of choice, affordability, and persistence. Although gaining entry to col- lege is still a dramatic accomplishment for some, persisting to degree is what really matters in the postcollege world. Unfulfilled academic goals often result in unfulfilled career realities:
lower pay, less security, fewer opportunities, and dreams deferred—if not abandoned.