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Below are the major theories/models/concepts over the years which attempt to explain college student retention/attrition.
Astin's (1977, 1985) Theory of Involvement
Bean's (1980, 1983) Model of Work Turnover to Student Attrition
Bean and Metzner's (1985) Nontraditional Student Attrition
Kamens (1971, 1974)
McNeely (1937) "College Student Mortality"
Spady Model (1971)
Tinto Model (1975, 1993)
* Most of these theories have been taken from:
Berger, J. B., & Lyons, S. (2005). Past to present: A historical look at retention. In Seidman, A. (Ed.). College student retention: Formula for student success. Praeger Press.
Braxton, J. M. & Hirschy, A. S. (2005). Theoretical Developments in the study of college student departure. In Seidman, A. (Ed.). College student retention: Formula for student success. Praeger Press.
Astin, A. W. (1977). Four critical years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Astin, A. W. (1985). Achieving academic excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bean, J. (1980). Dropouts and turnover: The synthesis and test of a casual model of student attrition. Research in Higher Education, 12, 155-187.
Bean, J. (1983). The application of a model of turnover in work organizations to the student attrition process. The Review of Higher Education, 6, 129-148.
Bean, J. P. & Metzner, B. S. (1985). A conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition. Review of Educational Research, 55, 485-540.
Kamens, D. H. (1971). The college "charter" and college size: Effects on occupational choice and college attrition. Sociology of Education, 44(summer), 270-296.
Kamens, D. H. (1974). Colleges and elite formation: The case of prestigious American colleges. Sociology of Education, 47(summer), 354-378.
McNeely, J. H. (1937). College student mortality. U.S. Office of Education, Bulletin 1937, no. 11. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Spady, W. (1971). Dropouts from higher education: An interdisciplinary review and synthesis. Interchange, 1, 64-85.
Summerskill, J. (1962). In N. Sanford (Ed.), The American College. New York: Wiley.
Tinto, V. (1975). Dropouts from higher education: a theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.