An analysis of pathway programs and social integration in the retention of international Chinese college students: a case study approach
Howarth, Debbie Claros
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As of 2016 the number of international students in the United States has reached over one million. Institutions of higher education in the United States have been attracting increasing numbers of international college students, primarily from China and other Southeast Asian countries. As a result, organizations such as the Institute of International Education have encouraged colleges and universities to create pathway programs. Pathway programs accept international students who do not have strong English language and/or academic skills, yet have a desire to study abroad. These students take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at the university before beginning their degree courses. Some program models also have students taking their first-year courses apart from the rest of the student body to help these students close their skill gaps. However, this study focused solely on a pathway program that offers only ESL courses. Previous studies have shown that students who have academic language proficiency, yet lack the ability to integrate socially, often struggle with acculturation. This, in turn, can lead to problems with persistence in their course work and ultimately lack of degree completion. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the social integration of international Chinese students comparing those who participated in the ESL program and those that did not at the subject university. The study examined the influence of this treatment on college retention and on self-reported social integration of international Chinese students. The study findings demonstrate that international Chinese students at this subject university who have received the intervention persist, having similar graduation rates compared to the general cohort, similar retention rates to the general cohort; and equal to or declining grade point averages based on the treatment-level. The study also shows that the ESL students have less acculturative stress and are more socially active in their college community than the non-ESL students. The effects of this social intervention have been positive not only at the start of their degree programs, but carry through their program. The study presents evidence as to the benefits the treatment offers towards persistence at this university, which supports pathway programs.