Thesis Title

An Application of Proactive Organizational Communication in Support of an Institutional Objective Regarding Student Retention At Southwest Missouri State University

Date of Graduation

Spring 1987


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Herbert Jackson

Subject Categories



During the fifties and sixties colleges and universities recruited from what seemed like an infinite pool of traditional-age students (age 18) and saw no need to worry about why students were dropping out. But times soon changed. By the mid 1970's, the nation's birth rate dropped a little more than three million from the early sixties. The declining birth rate signaled danger (a shrinking recruitment pool of 18- year-olds) to colleges and universities in the early 1970's through the 1980's. In view of the shrinking recruitment pool of 18-year-olds, institutions of higher education, including SMSU, are now coming to view dropouts in a decidedly different manner. A new trend among colleges and universities is to identify program and strategies intended to prevent students from dropping out--"retention." Typically, SMSU has treated the dropout problem with a "problem/program" approach. But can the dropout problem at SMSU be treated as a communication problem? In other words, are students dropping out (or withdrawing) because certain other information and/or communication needs are not being addressed? To respond intelligently data was accrued from adminstering the ACT Withdrawing/Nonreturning Student Survey (short form) across three semesters (Fall 1985, Spring 1986, Fall 1986); the age group of the respondents is treated as the independent variable in a bivariate analysis with all remaining questionnaire items (or variables). The data indicated five major issues facing the at-risk audience: (1) Family responsibilities; (2) Experienced emotional problems and felt alone or isolated; (3) Dissatisfied with my grades and inadequate study habits; (4) Did not budget money correctly; and (5) Conflict between demands of job and college. Since the overriding purpose of this project is to offer a specific test of D'Aprix's proactive organizational communication model, a communication plan was designed to address the five issues and to meet the communication and/or information needs of the at-risk audience. The plan is described and explained, including criteria for evaluation.


© Charles M Busby