The influence of self-efficacy on degree aspiration among domestic and international community college students

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Chen, Yu
Major Professor
Soko S. Starobin
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

The global economy requires the U.S. higher education develop a well-educated workforce with international perspective. One way to accomplish this goal is to focus on community colleges' role in expanding the pool of domestic and international graduates with college degrees. This study aimed at investigating how self-efficacy interacts with other key factors to function as a psychosocial mechanism that affects community college students' degree aspiration and how such a mechanism functions differently for international and domestic students. The purpose of this study can be specified in two aspects: a) to examine how self-efficacy influences community college students' degree aspiration with the consideration of its interaction with other key factors, and b) to investigate whether there are any differences between domestic and international community college students in the psychosocial mechanism of how self-efficacy influences degree aspiration.

This research developed a conceptual framework based on Bandura's (1973; 1986) self-efficacy theory, Lent's (1994) social cognitive career theory, social capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988), and status attainment theory (Blau & Duncan, 1967). The hypothesized conceptual model emphasized the role of self-efficacy as well as its interaction with other key factors such as social capital, personal input, high school experiences, transfer readiness, and community college supports and barriers. The conceptual model was designed to test how self-efficacy and the other key factors functioned interactively and influenced community college students' degree aspiration.

The Sunshine College (pseudonym), a multi-campus community college located in Florida, was selected as the participating college in this study. An on-line survey, STEM Student Success Literacy (SSSL) Survey, was implicated to Sunshine College in order to collect data about community college students' self-efficacy, degree aspiration, and other key factors included in the conceptual model. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) techniques were adopted to examine the fit of the conceptual model with the entire sample as well as two sub-samples, international and domestic community college students. In addition, descriptive analysis, comparative analysis, and factor analysis were also conducted for answering the research questions.

Results of this study indicated that high self-efficacy students comprised of more females, older students, students with higher social capital level and higher degree aspiration, and those with higher GPA in college. No significant differences in self-efficacy level were found between international and domestic students. Based on factor analysis, three general self-efficacy constructs: effort, initiative, and time management were included in the measurement model for testing. The SEM analysis finalized a statistical model that explains the psychosocial mechanism of how self-efficacy influences degree aspiration. In particular, self-efficacy was found both directly and indirectly (via transfer readiness) impacting degree aspiration. Other key factors such as high school experiences, age, native language and ethnicity were found indirectly influencing degree aspiration through the mediation of self-efficacy.

Findings of this study contributed to the existing literatures and added knowledge by a) focusing on community college students, b) utilizing general self-efficacy constructs, and c) emphasizing international students' psychosocial formation of degree aspiration. The psychosocial mechanism revealed by this study can help community college educators better understand community college students' (both domestic and international students) psychological world, and eventually facilitate their academic and career success.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014