Can Tinto's Student Departure Model Be Applied To Nontraditional Students?

Hanna Ashar
Robert Skenes


While Tinto's student departure model has been tested and supported in numerous studies, it has not yet been applied to nontraditional students. This study attempted to find out whether Tinto's model, in particular the concepts of academic and social integration, can explain retention among nontraditional students. Attrition rates of 25 adult learner classes in a college of management and business were calculated. Four independent variables were entered into a regression equation in an attempt to explain attrition from these classes. They were: social, academic, and career integration, and the size of each class. The data showed that classes that were socially integrated and smaller were better able to retain their students than the less socially integrated and larger-sized classes. The data suggest that what keeps adult learners in educational programs is the social environment in which the learning takes place.



This study seeks to explain whether Tinto’s student departure model (academic and social integration) can explain retention among non-traditional students. Tinto’s theory (1975) is distinctive as it places emphasis on both individual/psychological and institutional/sociological factors of retention. Integration is a central concept in this theory. Isolation (insufficient social interaction) and incongruence (not fitting to institutional climate) cause lack of integration, and that rises the risk of student departure from college. The authors point out the difference in school involvement and learning needs between traditional student and non-traditionals, and computed dropout rates (dependent variable) and social and academic integration scores (independent variable) (92). The result partially supported student departure model: social integration have a positive effect on retention, but the study did not find the same effect of academic and career integration. Two rationale behind this trend is offered. First, the authors note that the sample was limited to adult management majors who returned to school for the purpose of their career. Thus, intellectual development was not their main focus. Secondly, the results indicate that adult students’ learning needs are strong enough to make them return to school, but insufficient to maintain them in their program. These findings hold importance for instructors and administrators who work with adult students.

APA Citation

Ashar, H., & Skenes, R. (1993). Can Tinto's student departure model be applied to nontraditional students?. Adult education quarterly, 43(2), 90-100.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Adult Education Quarterly
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Other
Intervention/Areas of Study Instructor-student interactions, Student-student interactions
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Age groups, Undergraduates, Underrepresented - general
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics Social sciences
Outcome Variables of Interest Course completion, Retention
Student Sample Size 0-99
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