Factors Affecting Master Sergeants' Completion of Community College of the Air Force AAS Degree Requirements
Marie F. Kraska
James R. Larkins, Jr.
Director of Institutional Effectiveness,
Community College of the Air Force,
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government
Retention as measured by graduation rate is an area studied frequently in postsecondary education (Cohen & Brawer, 1989). Eaton (1994) stated, "Attrition, dropouts, and marginal degree-acquisition rates are all considered indicative of a problem within higher education" (p. 68). With increased emphasis on assessment and accountability, the graduation rate of an institution is becoming increasingly important in attracting new students, securing support, assuring continued funding, and maintaining accreditation.
Pantages and Creedon (1978) stated, "From the institutional point of view, attrition has a heavy impact on institutional operations and finance" (p. 49). According to Cohen and Brawer (1996), "Any institution needs to demonstrate its usefulness to society if it is to continue to be supported" (p. 71). According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1995), "The quality and effectiveness of education provided by each member institution are major considerations in accreditation decisions" (p. 17). Cohen and Brawer (1989) stated, "Student attrition is the most frequently studied topic in community college research literature. Colleges are continually seeking to determine why students drop out and whether or not their reasons are related to college practices" (p. 56). Astin, Tsui, and Avalos (1996) reported,"Few topics in higher education generate more genuine interest among different constituent groups than retention" (p. 1).
Research on the subject has blossomed as college administrators seek to understand and improve student retention in higher education. Retention studies at the postsecondary level are commonplace and of increasing importance as schools try to retain students. In fact, few problems in higher education have received as much attention (Tinto, 1993). While literally hundreds of studies have been conducted on persistence and withdrawal behavior, most of the research " has been atheoretical and descriptive" (Pascarella, Smart, & Ethington, 1986, p. 47).
Bean (1990) commented that society and communities are faced with, " a reduction in the level of training of individuals entering the labor force and thus a loss of human capital resources" (p. 170). Dropouts also represent a loss to higher education in terms of lost tuition revenues and additional recruiting costs needed to fill vacancies created by early departure. Another concern is the negative impact dropouts have on the mission of an institution. According to Feldman (1993), "Since most postsecondary institutions are organized around specific programs that have clearly defined requirements and lead to a degree or certificate, anything less than degree completion may be viewed as failure to reach the stated or implied purposes" (p. 503). Students who fail to graduate do not achieve educational objectives. They experience a reduction in projected lifetime earnings and receive a poor return on funds already invested in schooling (Bean, 1990).
Founded in 1972, the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and has a student enrollment of about 267,000 active duty enlisted U.S. Air Force members who are assigned throughout the world (U.S. Air Force, 1995a). The CCAF grants the Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree only. Although the college has graduated more than 134,000 students, this is a small percentage (6.7%) of the more than 2,000,000 students who have been enrolled with the college since its inception.
Air Force leaders are concerned with the effective use of resources, especially in an era of downsizing. The Air Force budget is down by 40% from its Cold War high (Widnall & Fogleman, 1995). Air Force leaders stated in a presentation to the House National Security Committee, "We fully understand that Congress and the American people expect us to maximize the return on each taxpayer dollar" (Widnall & Fogleman, 1995, p. 14).
The Air Force recognizes the value of off-duty education for its members. Courses provided by civilian schools and CCAF degree programs enhance technical skills and help members become well-rounded individuals better prepared to deal with the challenges of military life (JIST Works, Inc., 1993). A portion of CCAF's credo states that the Air Force needs " noncommissioned officers prepared to meet current and future leadership, managerial, and technological challenges of an increasingly sophisticated and complex Air Force" (U.S. Air Force, 1995b, pp. 1-2). Increased participation in the CCAF could enhance the effectiveness of the Air Force enlisted corps. Therefore, the results of this study might be of interest to other two-year schools or federally chartered, degree-granting institutions.
While there has been a considerable amount of research conducted related to dropouts from various types of civilian postsecondary institutions, little has been done on a unique, narrowly focused military institution such as the CCAF. Learning more about what factors effect CCAF's graduation rate may be helpful in developing intervention strategies to increase the graduation rate.
There are a number of other two-year colleges with much higher graduation rates. In analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, Adelman (1992) found that 26% of the students who initially planned to earn an associate degree were graduated in 12 years. Fujita and Alston (1995) reported a three-year graduation rate of 28.5% for the 1988 cohort in one New Jersey community college. Lee (1993) found that 27.6% of the first-time, full-time students who entered Westchester Community College in the Autumn of 1985 had been graduated after eight years. The College Board (1997) reported that 42.3% of students entering as freshman were graduated within three years from 407 two-year institutions.
Statement of the Problem
There is an inconsistency between Basic Military Training survey responses, which indicate that the primary reason people join the Air Force is to further their education and the percentage of CCAF students who earn the AAS degree. Between fiscal years 1989 and 1994, 67% to 70% of the basic trainees surveyed indicated "Continue Education" as one of the three primary reasons for joining the Air Force (U.S. Air Force, 1995c). More than 76% of the enlistees surveyed in 1991 indicated that they had heard about CCAF and planned to attend (U.S. Air Force, 1992). Less than 10% of the more than two million students who have been enrolled with the college since its inception have been graduated (U.S. Air Force, 1995a). There is little information available to enable one to understand the graduation rate. A lack of research evidence pertaining to the graduation rate at the CCAF provided the impetus for this study.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research was to determine the predictability of CCAF graduation by Air Force master sergeants based on the following 13 independent variables: ASVAB composite scores from the ten subtests in the areas of mechanical, administrative, general, and electronics; demographic variables which include gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, and total number of dependents; academic variables (major area of study, changed majors, and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress); and one military-related variable (number of credits earned for basic entry-level Air Force technical school). More specifically, the researchers attempted to answer the question: To what extent do the variables investigated in this study contribute to Air Force master sergeants' fulfillment of CCAF degree requirements?
Method of Research
Sources of Data
Records of master sergeants who came on active duty between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1983 provided the data for the study. Data were collected from two sources accessible at the CCAF Administrative Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. A computer program to obtain selected population data from the Air Force Master Personnel Files was entered into a computer terminal linked to the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Results were downloaded to the researcher's desktop computer on November 15, 1996. Additional data were obtained by the researchers through manual, case-by-case, queries of the Air Force Master Personnel and the CCAF Student Records Databases.
The population for this study included 3,703 master sergeants who came on active duty between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1983. A software package, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), was programmed to select a random sample of 15% of the population to ensure at least 30 cases per predictor variable (Austin, Yaffee, & Hinkle, 1992). This yielded a sample which was reduced to 518 when cases with missing data and outliers were removed. Population and sample data were collected between November 15 and December 20, 1996.
This study concentrated on active duty master sergeants who are the third highest of nine enlisted ranks. According to the U.S. Air Force (1995d), master sergeants function primarily in technical, supervisory, and management capacities. From a quantitative perspective, master sergeant was the ideal rank to study. Master sergeant is the only rank with approximately 45% of the group on active duty holding a CCAF degree (U.S. Air Force, 1996). The closer dichotomous groups are to being evenly divided, the greater the chance of developing a model that will improve the accuracy of prediction (Betz, 1987). Research has shown the average graduate has been in the Air Force approximately 12.5 years at the time of CCAF graduation (U.S. Air Force, 1994b). More than 99% of the master sergeants serving at the time of the study had been in the Air Force at least 12 years; they have had adequate time to complete CCAF degree requirements (U.S. Air Force, 1996).
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) instrument was used for the study. The ASVAB was developed by the Department of Defense in the 1960s as a tool for selecting and classifying military recruits (Weiner & Steinberg, 1994). According to Weitzman (1985), ASVAB Forms 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, and 10b were each composed of 10 subtests that were implemented in October 1980 and used until 1984 (U.S. Department of Defense, 1994). The subtests were combined to produce four aptitude scores: mechanical, administrative, general, and electronics. These scores were used to predict an individual's success in training for various Air Force occupations (U.S. Air Force, 1994a).
Data Analysis Procedures
Logistic regression analysis, a multivariate statistical technique, was used to evaluate the data and test the hypotheses related to the research question. Logistic regression is an appropriate technique when the dependent variable is dichotomous (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1992). Logistic regression analysis is one of the most widely used probability models. Both continuous and categorical variables can be used as predictor variables (Demaris, 1992). A stepwise approach, backward elimination, was used to analyze the data and the relative contribution of each predictor variable in explaining CCAF degree completion.
SPSS was used to produce descriptive data for the sample of 518 subjects. Mean scores were calculated for graduates, nongraduates, and the overall sample. Mean ASVAB composite scores for all subjects ranged from 74.19 to 67.57 on mechanical, from 69.27 to 61.75 on administrative, from 74.28 to 63.72 on general, and from 74.23 to 63.30 on electronics. Mean ASVAB scores for graduates exceeded nongraduates in all four composite areas. Differences between mean scores of graduates and nongraduates were 6.62 on mechanical, 7.52 on administrative, 10.56 on general, and 10.93 on electronics. The age of graduates and nongraduates averaged slightly under 35 years. The average number of dependents per subject was about 2.4, with less than a one-tenth difference between graduates and nongraduates. The average number of credits earned for basic entry-level Air Force technical school was about 15 semester hours, with graduates earning an average of 16.22 semester hours and nongraduates earning 13.42. Table 1 presents mean scores, standard deviations, and the range of scores for graduates, nongraduates, and the overall sample.
Males comprised nearly 89% of the sample. Thirty-six or 62% of the females were graduated compared to 263 or approximately 57% of the males. More than 76% of the sample were white. Of the 396 white students, 239 or approximately 60% had been graduated compared to 60 or approximately 49% of minority students. Eighty-nine percent of the sample were married. Of the 461 married students, 270 or approximately 59% had been graduated compared to 29 or approximately 51% of the unmarried students. About 43% of the subjects had changed majors. Of the 222 subjects who changed majors, 110 or approximately 50% were graduated compared to 189 of 296 subjects or approximately 64% of those who had not changed. Of the 320 or nearly 62% of the sample who had been moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress, 129 or approximately 40% had been graduated. Of the 198 who had not been moved forward, 170 or approximately 86% had been graduated. Demographic data are reported in Table 2.
Table 1 ASVAB mean scores, standard deviations, and ranges for continuous variable
Mechanical 74.19 67.57 71.39 21.23 6.62 Administrative 69.27 61.75 66.09 19.85 7.52 General 74.28 63.72 69.62 18.56 10.56 Electronics 74.23 63.30 69.62 18.03 10.93 AGE(years) 34.88 34.96 34.91 2.28 12.08 TOTAL NUMBER
2.40 2.47 2.43 1.37 0 - 9 CREDITS
Two of the ten ASVAB categories, Law and Mathematics, had no enrollees or graduates. These major areas of study were not included in the data analysis. Two other major areas (a) Biological and Agricultural Sciences, and (b) Physical Sciences, had some subjects but a cell count of less than five per cell. A zero or low cell count will result in a very high estimated standard error for the coefficient associated with that category (Menard, 1995). To remedy this situation, Biological and Agricultural Sciences and Physical Sciences were combined with a third area, Medical Sciences to form a category labeled Combined Sciences. Graduation rates for the six major areas of study ranged from 20 students or nearly 67% for Inter-Area Specializations to 62 students or about 54% for Administration, Management, and Military Science. Nearly 58% of the subjects had been graduated from CCAF.
Table 2 Demographic data by frequency and percent
Gender Male 263 57.0 197 43.0 460 88.8 Female 36 62.0 22 38.0 58 112 Total 299 219 518 100.0 Ethnicity White 239 60.0 157 40.0 396 76.4 Minority 60 49.9 62 51.0 122 23.6 Total 299 219 518 100.0 Marital Status Married 270 59.0 191 41.0 461 89.0 Not Married 29 51.0 28 49.0 57 11.0 Total 299 51.0 219 518 100.0 Major Changed
110 50.0 112 50.0 222 43.0 No Change 189 64.0 107 36.0 296 64.0 Movement Moved Forward 129 40.0 191 60.0 320 62.0 No Move 179 86.0 28 14.0 198 38.0
The logistic regression analysis procedure in the SPSS software was used to evaluate the data. The backward elimination approach started with 13 variables in the model, regardless of their statistical significance. Variables that failed to meet established alpha levels during evaluation were removed, leaving only the most important variables in the model. Alpha levels for the entry and removal of variables were set at p = .05 and p = .10, respectively. Procedures for evaluating the model included assessing the fit of the overall model and assessing the independent variables.
Assessing the Fit of the Overall Model.
Maximum likelihood techniques were used to calculate the parameters of the logistic regression model (Kaufman, 1996). The model chi-square statistic is similar to the F ratio in linear regression and tests whether the independent variables as a whole significantly affect the dependent variable (Norusis, 1997). It specifically tests the null hypothesis that coefficients for all variables in the final model (except the constant) are zero. The model chi-square statistic, the difference between the initial log likelihood and the final log likelihood values, equaled 165.21 (705.70 - 540.49). The level of significance was p = .0000. The final model made a statistically significant improvement in predicting the CCAF graduation status of master sergeants in the study. The results indicated one or more of the 13 coefficients was different from zero. The researchers failed to reject the research hypothesis.
Two other measures are useful in assessing the overall model. The Hosmer and Lemeshow goodness-of-fit statistic measures how close expected and observed values are and whether the model is a good fit (Norusis, 1997). A nonsignificant probability (p > .05) indicated that the expected and observed values are close, and the model is a good fit. In this case, the chi-square value was 9.0729 with 8 degrees of freedom. The level of significance, p = .3362, was not significant and indicated the model was a good fit. The Nagelkerke R2 statistic is a value similar to the variance in multiple regression (Norusis, 1997). In this case the Nagelkerke R2 value was .367; therefore, the model explained 36.7% of the variation in the dependent variable.
Table 3 shows how well the model performs in classifying cases into the two categories of the dependent variable (graduated or not graduated). The chance value, equaling 57.72% of the sample that had been graduated, was based on the distribution of the dependent variable. The logistic model derived using the backward elimination approach correctly classified 71.43% of the cases. This was an improvement of 13.71% over chance (57.72%), and a 23.75% improvement in classification accuracy. The model did a better job predicting graduates than nongraduates, 75.92% of graduates compared to 65.30% of nongraduates.
Table 3 Classification of graduates and nongraduates by the logistic regression model (SPSS Output)
Total % Correct
Non-Graduate 143 76 219 63.30 Graduate 72 227 299 75.92
Total 215 303 518 71.43
Several measures of the overall fit of the model showed a relationship between all of the independent variables initially considered together and the dependent variable (Menard, 1995). The relationship was statistically significant, and the overall model had explanatory power which dictated assessing the effect of individual variables.
Assessing the Independent Variables
Significance levels for the independent variables were computed using the Wald statistic. The SPSS software went through 10 iterations in eliminating 9 of 13 variables from the model. Table 4 displays the SPSS output for the four independent variables that remained in the model.
Table 4 Variables remaining in the model after the backward elimination (SPSS Output)
Variable B S.E. Wald Df Sig R Exp
Age -.0895 .0475 3.5527 1 .0594 -.0469 .9144 Electronics .0421 .0063 44.7318 1 .0000* .2461 1.0430 Gender .9166 .3588 6.5266 1 .0106* .0801 2.5009 Moved -2.3541 .2521 87.2150 1 .0000* -.3475 .0950 Constant 2.0310 1.6492 1.5170 1 .2181
* p. < .05
Electronics, gender, and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress were statistically significant predictors of CCAF graduation at the p < .05 level of significance. Age appeared to be an important, but not statistically significant, predictor of CCAF graduation. It was retained in the model because the alpha level for age (p = .0594) was less than the alpha level established (p = .10) for removal of variables from the model.
The raw coefficients in column B of Table 4 are interpreted as estimates for the effect of a particular variable, controlling for the other variables in the equation (SPSS Inc., 1997). Each B coefficient, " represents the change in the natural logarithm of the odds ratio, which is harder to interpret than the odds ratio" (Wright, 1995, p. 223). A positive B coefficient indicated that the predicted odds of CCAF graduation increase as the predictor increases, and a negative coefficient indicated that the predicted odds decrease as the predictor increases (Wright, 1995). As depicted in Table 4, the electronics and gender variables had positive coefficients, and age and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress had negative values.
The R statistic is used to examine the partial correlation between the dependent variable and each of the independent variables (Norusis, 1997). A positive R value indicated that the likelihood of an event occurring increases as the variable increases in value. Both electronics and gender were positive. A negative value indicated that the likelihood of an event occurring decreases as the variable increases in value. Both age and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress had negative R values. As age increased or if the subject was moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress, the likelihood of graduation decreased. A small R value indicated the variable made a smaller partial contribution to the model. In this case, age (R = -.0469) and gender (R = .0801) had the smallest R values. The ASVAB electronics score had an R value of .2461, and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress had the largest value (R = -.3475) and made the largest partial contribution.
The column labeled Exp(B) in Table 4 presents the odds ratios or the exponentiated value of the raw regression coefficient for each of the variables (Austin et al., 1992). These values are interpreted as the change in the odds ratio associated with a 1-unit increase in each predictor variable. An odds ratio greater than 1 indicated the odds of having been graduated from CCAF increase when the independent variable increases (Menard, 1995). The Exp(B) value for electronics was 1.0430. This value converts to a percentage using the following formula: (Exp(B) - 1) x 100. The value was 4.3%, which was the percentage increase in the odds of having been graduated from CCAF with a 1-unit increase in electronics. The Exp(B) value for gender was 2.5009. The odds of having been graduated from CCAF increased by 50.1% for females. Females were more likely to have been graduated than males. A value less than 1 indicated the odds of having been graduated from CCAF decreased when the independent variable increased. The Exp(B) value for age was .9144. A 1-year increase in age decreased the odds of having been graduated from CCAF by 8.6%. The Exp(B) value for moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress was .0950. A change from "did not move" to "moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress" (0 to 1) reduced the odds of having been graduated from CCAF by 90.5%.
No statistically significant relationship existed between CCAF graduation status and the other ten independent variables. The variables which were not significant predictors of CCAF graduation status were ASVAB scores for mechanical, administrative, and general; demographic variables including ethnicity, age, marital status, and total number of dependents; academic variables including major area of study and changed majors; and the number of credits earned for basic entry-level Air Force technical school.
ASVAB electronics scores, gender, and moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress were statistically significant predictors of CCAF graduation. The odds of having been graduated from CCAF increased for females and those with a 1-unit increase in the ASVAB electronics score. The difference in mean raw ASVAB electronics scores between female graduates (62.67) and male graduates (75.81) was more than 13.1. Mean scores for male nongraduates (64.96) also exceeded scores for female graduates. The odds of having been graduated decreased when a student was moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress.
White students had a higher graduation rate than minority students; however, ethnicity was not a statistically significant predictor of CCAF graduation status. Approximately 60% of the white students in the study had been graduated compared to approximately 49% of minority students. Across the Air Force, nearly 17% of the whites and almost 16% of all minorities held a CCAF degree (U.S. Air Force, 1997). Nearly 51% of the white master sergeants held a CCAF degree compared to 46% of all minorities combined and 45% of black members.
Age was not a statistically significant predictor of CCAF graduation status, and the mean ages for graduates and nongraduates were nearly equal. While married students had a higher CCAF graduation rate (58.6%) than students who were not married (50.9%), this variable was not a statistically significant predictor of CCAF graduation status. Marriage appeared to be a positive factor for the master sergeants in this study. The mean number of dependents for graduates and nongraduates was nearly equal, and the variable was not a significant predictor of CCAF graduation status.
The variable "major area of study" was derived by reducing several hundred Air Force job specialties and more than 60 CCAF major areas into a 6-category variable. Graduation rates among the six categories ranged from nearly 67% for Inter-Area Specializations to about 54% for Administration, Management, and Military Science. This variable was not a significant predictor of CCAF graduation status.
Students who changed majors had a lower CCAF graduation rate (49.6%) than those who had not changed (63.9%). However, the variable "changed majors" was not a significant predictor of CCAF graduation status. Although graduates earned nearly three semester hours more credit than nongraduates for their basic entry-level Air Force technical school, the variable was not a significant predictor of CCAF graduation status.
According to Pascarella (1986), investigations which identify variables linked to student persistence are the basis for developing appropriate intervention strategies. Institutions can benefit from effective intervention programs by increased student retention as well as learning more about various institutional processes. After implementation, intervention strategies could be evaluated to ensure proper implementation and impact on retention.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Based on the results of this study, it may be concluded that a logistic regression model is effective in predicting CCAF graduation status (graduated or not graduated). Results of this study indicated that being "moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress" reduced the odds of having been graduated from CCAF by approximately 91%. This variable had a larger impact than any other variable in the study; therefore, this variable made the largest contribution to the model. It is a simple, effective, categorical indicator that reflects lack of student progress over a 6-year time span. In other words, students who were moved forward did not amass enough credits to complete degree requirements. While the variable is analogous to "credits earned", the data are easier to obtain and provide a quicker snapshot of student progress.
The order of importance of the variables in the final logistic regression model was moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress, ASVAB electronics scores, and gender. It may be concluded that moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress, ASVAB electronics scores, and gender are reliable predictors of CCAF graduation status. Further, it may be concluded that investigations of the variable moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress and ASVAB electronics scores may be the focal point for intervention strategies to address "at risk" students. In addition, it may be concluded that higher scores on the electronics portion of the ASVAB increase the odds of being graduated, whereas being male decreases the odds.
While it was beyond the scope of this study to ascertain the reasons that the three variables were significant predictors of CCAF graduation status, several conclusions may be drawn. Most students who were not moved forward to the current catalog due to lack of progress (86% graduated) were more aggressive in completing degree requirements than those who were moved forward (40% graduated). Since CCAF graduates had significantly higher mean ASVAB electronics scores than nongraduates (74.23 compared to 63.30), one may conclude that students with higher aptitudes in electronics are more likely to have been graduated. Likewise, females are more likely to have been graduated than males (62% compared to 57%). This finding compares favorably with past research which indicated that females have overtaken males in most recent categories of educational attainment.
The results of this study indicated that ten of the variables (ASVAB mechanical, administrative, and general scores; ethnicity, age, marital status, and total number of dependents; major area of study and changed majors; and number of credits earned for basic entry-level Air Force technical school) did not have a significant impact on predicting CCAF graduation status. Conclusions related to these variables should be made with caution until further research is conducted. In addition, caution should be used in generalizing the results of this study to other military ranks, other Air Force components, or nonmilitary postsecondary institutions.
This research focused on the relationship between the CCAF graduation status of Air Force master sergeants and 13 independent variables. Future research efforts should investigate additional independent variables. Since the availability of additional relevant data through the Air Force Personnel Center and CCAF Student Records Databases is limited, new demographic and attitudinal data would need to be obtained directly from subjects to be studied. Several related variables which have proved to be important graduation predictors include grade point average, class ranking, subjects completed, and number of courses completed (Lenning, 1982). Variables such as student motivation, aspirations, values, personality factors, and institutional-related variables should be investigated for their effect on program completion of military and non-military postsecondary students.
This research concentrated on active duty master sergeants, one of nine enlisted ranks. Future research could be expanded to include the top five or six enlisted ranks to increase the generalizability of results. Future research efforts could include members of the other military components, the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. The limited availability of certain types of data and the unique features of each component may necessitate separate studies.
Another problem for further study could be related to where subjects had been assigned during their Air Force careers, the hundreds of job specialties held by Air Force personnel, moves and travel, shiftwork, and other factors which can limit school attendance. Finally, studies to investigate demographic data such as high school grade point average, extracurricular activities, other student experiences, and parental education levels for individuals before they entered the Air Force may be helpful in developing prediction models. In addition, attitudinal data such as goals and aspirations, motivation, and job satisfaction may have an impact on CCAF graduation.
While this study was conducted in a two-year Air Force school, the results have implications for other postsecondary institutions as well. The logistic regression procedure is well suited for studying a school's graduation rate when considered as a dichotomous dependent variable (graduated or not graduated). Logistic regression requires fewer assumptions than does discriminant analysis. Both categorical and continuous independent variables can be used in the model to determine significant predictors of degree completion.
The ASVAB and other entrance examinations or aptitude scales may be good indicators of ability and useful as predictors of degree completion. Students with low scores could be the focus of a program to identify, test, and advise "at risk" students. Therefore, a problem for further study could be an investigation of students' scores on entrance examinations or aptitude scales.
Variables identified as significant predictors of degree completion as well as the overall model could be the basis of student placement and intervention programs. The overall logistic regression model could be used to identify at risk students who are less likely to complete degree requirements. Students could be assessed and placed in a program and at a level more in line with their capabilities before initial enrollment. The progress of students could be monitored closely, and they could be provided support, advisement, mentoring, and easy access to developmental courses.
The World Wide Web offers tremendous outreach potential for delivering more timely information to a large and highly diversified student body. Providing instant access to student advisement information, particularly the date a student is scheduled to be moved forward, would benefit both CCAF advisors and students. Individual student data could show users the credit hours students have earned and areas where credit hours are still needed in order to be graduated. Degree completion options could be tailored to specific institutions, showing courses available through local colleges and universities. Investigation of the effectiveness of the World Wide Web to initiate and enhance communications with "at risk" students in order to reduce dropout behavior could be a problem for further study. Results of such investigations could be used for planning World Wide Web enhancements, resource allocations, and student advisement policies.
Marie F. Kraska is the Associate Professor in the Department of Vocational and Adult Education, Auburn University, Alabama
James R. Larkins, Jr. Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Community College of the Air Force, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
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