New Study Shows Phi Theta Kappa Members Have Higher Degree Attainment Rates

Posted By Eliana Osborn on March 21, 2016 at 8:59 am
New Study Shows Phi Theta Kappa Members Have Higher Degree Attainment Rates

Getting through college can be hard, especially when that road means transferring from a community college to a four-year school.  And when you’re struggling financially, that can make things even harder.  First in your family to get to college?  Yet another challenge.  But for those worried about their prospects of ever earning a bachelor’s degree, there is some positive news.

High-achieving community college students whose grades qualify them to participate in Phi Theta Kappa are finishing bachelor’s degrees just fine.  PTK is an honor society and scholarship organization for two-year colleges; students must have a 3.5 GPA or higher and be invited to join.

In a recent study, 85% of 11,000 students who joined PTK in the 2008-9 school year went on to earn some kind of degree in the next six years.  Notably, this could be a bachelor or associate degree.  The six-year bachelor’s completion rate was 68%, with another 7% still enrolled and working toward that degree.

Community college students almost all say they have a goal of earning a bachelor’s degree, but many are unable to ultimately achieve that outcome.  Only 38% of students who start at a community college end up getting a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

According to the study, “Members [of PTK] also significantly outperformed students with similar grade point averages. Further, among those who transferred, members significantly out-performed the bachelor’s degree completion rates of native four-year college students.”

So – what factors are involved with Phi Theta Kappa students’ graduation success? Nearly half PTK students receive Pell grants, so they aren’t a special elite group economically. But getting off to a solid start during their first year of college certainly helps propel them forward.

Phi Theta Kappa believes students are benefiting from participation in the society.  It provides leadership opportunities and chances for scholarly work, as well as financial help toward a bachelor’s degree.  Other research has shown profound benefits for support mechanisms for first-year college students generally, whether that means mentorship or advisement.

PTK is for “students who exist on every campus who achieve more, engage more, and want to make the very best of the time they spend in a community college,” according to the organization.  The purpose of this study was simply to see if community college graduation rates are as low for all groups as some reports show.  Different states have varying degrees of success getting students to transfer and complete degrees.  This data further shows additional support can help students achieve their educational goals.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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