Retaining College Students Experiencing Shocks: The Power of Embeddedness and Normative Pressures

David B. Wangrow, Kristie Rogers, Delia Saenz, Peter Hom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Why do college students persist with their education, especially when facing challenges? We answer this question by exploring the complexities surrounding college student retention, using the organizational research lenses of job embeddedness, normative pressures, and the unfolding model of turnover. We first developed a college embeddedness scale and adapted a measure of normative pressures on college persistence. Then, we surveyed 287 first-year students from a broad range of racial and ethnic groups to understand their re-enrollment intentions and behavior. We found a positive relationship between re-enrollment intentions and normative pressures. Additionally, both college embeddedness and normative pressures predicted actual re-enrollment. Next, we examined how these forces interact with critical events (shocks) that prompt students to contemplate leaving, finding that college embeddedness and normative pressures mitigated the impact of shocks on re-enrollment intentions. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, including the utility of job embeddedness theory for identifying heretofore neglected forces underlying college student retention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-109
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Higher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • College student retention
  • embeddedness
  • normative pressures
  • shocks
  • student attrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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