Brent Mallinckrodt and William Sedlacek


                                                Research Report # 6-85









This research project was supported by the Adele Stamp Union and the Counseling Center, University of Maryland, College Park.


Computer time for this study was provided by the Computer Science Center, University of Maryland, College Park.









                        Brent Mallinckrodt and William E. Sedlacek


                                                Research Report # 6-85





            Data were collected by mail from freshman samples of white, black and international students, and from students on academic probation (N=207; 67% return rate).  Follow-up registration information was obtained on all participants.  One year after the initial data collection, i.e., by the second semester of participants’

Sophomore year, 52 of the 207 participants were no longer registered (25% attrition rate).  Use of campus libraries, union and dining hall were related to retention for students in general, while use of the library, union and gym were related to related to retention for black students, using discriminant analysis at the .05 level

Student Retention and the Use of Campus Facilities


The multitude and complexity of variables affecting student retention have been described in several recent reviews of literature (Pantages and Creedon, 1979).  Until recently, however, the role of academic variables in student persistence was the focus of much more research interest than social variables.

Three writers have conceptualized models of retention which have emphasized the importance of the nonacademic environment in student retention.  Each presents some evidence to suggest that use of the facilities, and programs related to those facilities, at an institution may foster student retention.

Tinto (1975) suggested that those students who better integrate their goals and experiences (academic and social) at an institution are more likely to remain in school.  Utilizing the facilities provided by an institution might be seen as an important part of the social experience.  In his national study of college dropouts, Astin (1972) presented evidence that the extent to which a student can become involved or identified with an activity or program at an institution increases the probability that the student will remain in school.  As suggested by Tinto, use of facilities could be seen as related to retention in Astin’s study.  Sedlacek (Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976; Tracey and  Sedlacek, 1984; in press)  provides a framework of eight noncognitive variables (which are particularly valid fro predicting minority student retention) to explain student retention.  He includes several variables that could relate to facilities use, including the student’s identification with the institution (part self-concept), and campus community involvement.

In a study of student retention and usage of campus facilities, Churchill and Twai (1981) found that the students with low GPA’s who continued their studies in a major western university were more likely to use campus facilities than students with low GPA’s who dropped out.  They examined ten different services/facilities: the library, campus housing, campus food service, recreational facilities, academic advisement, career services, financial aid, student health services, and the university counseling service.  Unfortunately, the authors did not present separate data for each type of facility/service.  The mixture of services and facilities makes it difficult to sort out the policy implications underlying their findings.

The student union on many major college campuses has evolved into much more that a place to buy lunch or shop for books.  On these campuses the union may serve as a principal meeting place, recreational center, and source of information about campus activities for students.  In one student union on a large, eastern, university campus over 22,000 persons enter the building on a typical day of operation, a number equal to nearly half of the total combined campus population of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff (Hubler, 1983).  In addition, research suggests that minority students use the union as a meeting place and possible source of “social integration” to a Larger extent than majority students (Webster and Sedlacek , 1982), and students who are relative newcomers to the university environment utilize the union to a greater extent than those who have been on campus longer ( Mallinckrodt and Sedlacek, 1985).  This literature suggests that university student union may provide an important source of social integration for students “at risk” of dropping out.  Despite the importance of this question, no study could be located which directly investigated the relationship between student’s involvement in their campus student union and persistence in their institutions.

The purpose of this study was to determine if use of certain campus facilities including the student union was related to student retention.



            A stratified random sample of second semester freshman at a large eastern university was administrated a 24-item questionnaire on their use of campus facilities such as libraries, residence halls, student union, gymnasium and dining halls.  Usable returns were received from 207 students (67% return rate).  Samples consisted of white males, white females, black males, black females, males and females with GPA’s less than 2.00, and male and female international students (see Table 1).

            Discriminant analyses were conducted at the .05 level to predict retention (continued enrollment) at the same university the next fall and the following spring.



            Table 1 shows that 80% of the 207 students returned to school the next fall, and 75% were still enrolled the following spring.  The highest retention rate the next spring was for white males (89%), and the lowest retention rate was for low GPA males (52%).



Table 1


Academic Persistence* by Subgroup


Subgroup               No. Registered                No. Remaining           No. Remaining

                               Initially in Spring Next Fall                     Next Spring


                                                                           N      %                       N     %


White Males              44                                   39     89                       39     89

White Females           52                                   47     90                       42     81


Black Males               11                                    8      73                       7       64


Black Females           22                                   18     82                       16     73


Low GPA Males*      25                                   15     60                       13     52


Low GPA Females*   24                                   15     63                       14     58



Students-Male           19                                   16     84                      16      84



Students-Female        10                                     8     80                        8      80


            TOTAL           207                                166    80                    155     75


*GPA < 2.00 on 4 point scale


            Table 2 shows the significant predictions of student retention for all students and blacks students for one and two semesters after the initial data were collected.  Uses of academic facilities which were related to retention for students in general for both semesters were: studying, research, and number of hours spent in a campus library.

            Uses of nonacademic facilities related to retention to retention for both semesters were: attending a dance or concert in the student union, eating in a campus dining hall, and working as a campus employee.

            For black students, the only academic facility use relating to retention was studying in a campus library; while use of two nonacademic facilities predicted retention: “ Considered an outdoor recreation trip sponsored by the union,” and “hours per week spent in a campus gym.”  The use of the gym was a predictor for one semester enrollment only.


Table 2

Significant  * Predictors of Student Retention **

            All Students                                                                Blacks Students


Attended dances or                                                    Considered outdoor

Concerts in union (F, S)                                             recreation trip through

                                                                                    union                           (F, S)

Studied in undergraduate                                          Studied in undergraduate

Library                   (F, S)                                            library                         (F, S)


Used campus library                                                  Hours per week spent

For research        (F, S)                                              in campus gym            (F)


Hours spent in main

Campus library per

Week                  (F, S)


Ate in campus dining

Hall                     (F, S)


Hours spent in undergraduate

Library per week  (S)


Worked as a student

Employee           (F, S)


*Using Discriminant analysis at the .05 level


**F = predicted retention for next fall

   S  = predicted retention for next spring


            Table 3 shows the correct “hit rate” or predictions of students in each sample to be persisters or nonpersisters in school.  Overall, predictions ranged from 82% for blacks in the fall semester, to 61% for students in general in the spring.  Black persisters were correctly predicted 90% of the time in both fall and spring, but  nonpersisters were correctly predicted only 33% of the time in the spring.



Table 3


Correct Predictions of Persisters or Nonpersisters*


                                                            All Students


                                                Persisters                   Nonpersister              Overall



Fall                                              74%                                    73%                    73%


Spring                                         62%                                    58%                    61%



                                                                                        Black Students


                                                Persisters                   Nonpersisters              Overall


Fall                                              90%                                    67%                     82%


Spring                                         90%                                    33%                     71%



*Using items in Table 2




            The implications for academic facility use fro students in general appear to be that students who use the library are more likely to stay in school.  Four of the six significant predictors for students concerned the library.  However, for black students only one of the three significant predictors involved the library.

Tinto’s and Astin’s models both support the potential value of campus libraries in enhancing retention, while the findings of the present study support these models as well as the intuitive assumptions of what is likely most members of the campus community concerning library use.

             The findings highlight the importance of special programs emphasizing the value of the library, through academic departments as well as though student affairs units.  Involving students in the use of library on their first visit to campus might be useful part of freshman orientation.  For instance, giving new students library assignments as individuals or in groups, and possibly making awards fro the best completion of a task, might be useful.  Also, most orientation programs include academic advisors, who could be involved in these projects in addition to the library staff.

            Counseling and career development centers might also be areas in student affairs where leadership in stressing increased library use and familiarity with library facilities could take place.  Tasks relating to library use could be incorporated easily in vocational or study skills counseling.  Programs in other areas of student affairs such as student activities or resident life could be developed.

            The finding that nonacademic variables may be more important than academic variables in black student retention is compatible with Sedlacek’s work on the topic.  Sedlacek contends that nonacademic variables are prerequisites which must be dealt with before black students can concentrate on academic considerations (Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976; Tracey and Sedlacek, 1984; 1985).  Policy which allows the maximum number of hours of student use of campus gyms and athletic facilities may help retain black students.  Designing or remodeling such facilities to meet the particular needs of black students, as well programs to familiarize them with those facilities, might be especially helpful.

            That an outdoor recreation program sponsored by the union was a useful predictor is particularly interesting.  Signing up for such a program may be assign of trust and commitment by a black student which goes beyond the other items which were significant predictors.  As noted earlier, Sedlacek’s variables of seeing oneself as part of the campus (self-concept) and being a part of the community provide a context for interpreting this finding.  A use of facilities which emphasizes increased commitment and identification with the campus community will be particularly important for minority students.  Outdoor recreation programs themselves should be supported, and appear to be receiving more emphasis in student union programming.  This is evidenced by the emphasis placed on such programming at the Association of College Unions-International convention in San Diego in April, 1985.

            The role of the union in student retention was further emphasized by finding that students in general who had attended a dance or concert at the union were more likely to stay in school.  Further research exploring the unique role that unions may play in student retention should be considered.  It appears that specific use of the union is related to retention (e.g., outdoor recreation, dances and concerts) rather than hours spent in the union, as was the case with the library.  Encouraging the union to offer more programs aimed at students in general, and specific groups such as black students, might have a positive impact on student retention.

            In conclusion, it appears that the use of campus facilities is related to retention for students in general, and fro black students in particular.  While library use was related to retention in both groups, use of nonacademic facilities was particularly important for black student retention.  It appears that students affairs administrators have potential to have an impact on student retention depending on how they manage these facilities.


































Astin, A.W., (1975).   Preventing Students from Dropping Out.

            San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.


Churchill, W.D. & Iwai, S.I., (1981).  College attrition, student use of campus facilities, and a consideration of self-reported personal problems.  Research in Higher Education, 14, 353-365.


Hubler, D., (1983).  Adele H. Stamp Union Annual Report. Unpublished manuscript.  University of Maryland, College Park


Mallinckrodt, B. & Sedlacek, W.E., (1985).  Attitudes and preferences of members of the campus community toward the Adele H. Stamp Union.  Counseling Center Research Report No.9-85.  University of Maryland, College Park.


Pantages, T.J. & Creedon, C.F., (1976).  Studies of college attrition: 1950-1975.  Review of Educational Research, 48, 49-101


Sedlacek, W.E. & Brooks, G.C, Jr., (1976).  Racism in America Education: A model for change.  Chicago:  Nelson-Hall, Inc.


Tinto, V., (1975).  Dropouts from higher education:  A theoretical synthesis of recent research.  Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125


Tracey, T.J. & Sedlacek W.E., (1984).  Noncognitive variables in predicting academic success by race.  Measurement and evaluation in Guidance, 16, 171-178.


Tracey, T.J. & Sedlacek, W.E.,  (1985).  The relationship of noncognitive variables to academic success:  A longitudinal comparison by race.  Journal Of College Student Personnel, 26, 405-410.


Webster, D.W. & Sedlacek, W.E., (1982).  The Differential impact of a university student union on campus subgroups.  NASPA Journal, 19, #2, 48-51.