Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Robert S. Wall Emerson

Second Advisor

Dr. Nickola W. Nelson

Third Advisor

Dr. Dae S. Kim

Abstract

Completion of a college degree is a positive outcome for any young adult. The purpose of this three-paper dissertation was to explore the latent constructs and other variables that may be associated with postsecondary education outcomes of youth who are blind or visually impaired. The samples were drawn from a 10-year longitudinal study of youth with disabilities, the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2. The sample of the first study comprised 420 youth (all Ns rounded to nearest 10 to meet data restrictions) who had taken the direct assessment recorded in the dataset. Exploratory factor analysis of 17 variables reported by parents and school personnel yielded four factors representing latent constructs in the data. The four factors were characterized as academic achievement, independence, social skills, and non-academic skills. The second study used these four factors and other variables measured during high school in logistic regression models of college attendance to investigate characteristics predictive of college attendance among the 280 youth who ever attended. Results indicated that youth who are blind or visually impaired attend two- or four-year colleges at a very high rate (80.6%). Students whose parents expected them to attend college were more than eight times as likely to attend. Students with higher grade point averages in high school were almost two times as likely to attend. Those with higher social skills showed a smaller odds ratio of being 1.2 times more likely to attend. The third study investigated predictors of persistence in college, adding variables measured during college, including rehabilitation agency and academic supports. Of the 200 youth remaining in the sample, just 52.6% attained 30 credits or sophomore status during the study period. Results indicated that students who found academic help outside of services provided by the college were four times as likely to persist. Students who used large print were 3.6 times as likely to persist. Results imply that blind/VI youth attend college in spite of demographic differences such as low income and persist at rates similar to the general population. Future research should explore deeper aspects of relationships between variables and longer term outcomes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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