Degree attainment of low-socioeconomic status students: structural equation modeling test of an elaborated theory of socialization
The primary purpose of this inquiry was to develop an understanding of how socialization, economic, and interactionalist factors affect baccalaureate degree attainment of low-socioeconomic status (SES) students. The data were drawn from the 1996 Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study, which is sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics, and represented students who began postsecondary studies during the 1995--96 academic year at any postsecondary institution. A subset of low-SES students (n = 437) was selected from the 8,934 respondents to the three rounds of the longitudinal study. The low-SES students were selected based upon their classification as moderately or highly disadvantaged on a socioeconomic diversity scale.;The researcher employed structural equation modeling analyses as the primary statistical technique in this research to test a hypothesized model of degree attainment. The hypothesized model examined how control variables (ethnicity, gender), socialization variables (parents' income, parents' education, high school GPA, SAT composite score, degree aspirations), economic variables (grant aid, loan aid, work-study aid, cost of attendance), and interactionalist variables (academic and social integration) individually and collectively influence degree attainment for low-SES students. Several goodness-of-fit indices were used to determine the extent to which the causal model was consistent with the data. The structural model depicted links among variables in the model and tested the plausibility of assertions about the explanatory relationship of multiple constructs that influence degree attainment by estimating structural regression coefficients.;The results of the study indicated that several factors influence low-SES students' baccalaureate degree attainment. Students' early academic performance, measured by high school GPA and SAT scores is a significant factor in the degree attainment process. Students' degree aspirations also had a significant effect on degree attainment. Increases in students' grant/budget ratio were associated with increases in both academic and social integration. Higher levels of academic and social integration, in turn, had a positive effect on degree attainment. The results of the study provided evidence that elaboration of the socialization theory of degree attainment by including economic and interactional factors offers a more complex understanding of degree attainment for low-SES students.