Students with Disabilities — Factors Impacting First-to-Second-Year Persistence

Mamiseishvili, K., & Koch, L.C. (2010). First-to-Second-Year Persistence of Students With Disabilities in Postsecondary Institutions in the United States. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 54(2), 93-105.


In the article “First-to-Second-Year Persistence of Students With Disabilities in Postsecondary Institutions in the United States”, authors Mamiseishvili and Koch (2010), explore factors that influence persistency for students from first-to-second-year in college, as well as risk factors that lead to attrition, in students with disabilities. While enrollment of students with disabilities has remained steady, by enacting greater protection to students with disabilities, through the passing of disability legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, it is anticipated that postsecondary institutions will see an increase in the number of students with disabilities that enroll in the years ahead.

For their study, the authors used data from the “Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study” survey (p. 95). The data set was varied and included transfer students, persisters, stopouts and dropouts, as well as vocational completers. Participants were interviewed to determine who fit the criteria for the survey.

The sample size of the study for students with disabilities was 1910 students. Appropriate weighting measures were used to account for oversampling from the original BPS sample data set. The average age of the sample participants was 24 years.

The researchers did a good job considering different variables and characteristics, including – students who transferred to other institutions of higher education, background characteristics such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, type of disability, first-generation student status, as well as high school GPA. Additionally, characteristics of being a college student were also take into consideration, which included first-year GPA, intensity of the academic program, remediation, housing status, degree aspirations, academic integration, social integration, price of attendance, and first institution level.


There were several tests that were used to measure whether significant associations existed. The authors used Pearson’s chi-square tests to determine if there was a significant association with those that received disability-related services and those that persisted. Testing showed that there was a significant association, in that students with disabilities who received academic support services were more likely to persist from first-year-to-second-year. The highest association was for students who received a course substitution or waiver, note taking services, testing readers and / or scribes. Chi-square testing also showed a significant association with those who participated in academic and social activities. Specific activities included, meeting informally with the instructor, attending study groups, and discussing academic matters with the instructor and advisor outside of the classroom. Testing showed that students with disabilities who actively participated in academic and social activities were more likely to persist from first-year-to-second-year.

In addition to the chi-square testing, a logistic regression analysis was also conducted, looking at factors which influenced first-to-second-year persistence. Significant predictors for persisting from first-to-second-year were discovered. The variables that stood out the most in being associated with the likelihood of persisting were – being female and black, female (compared to males), African American (compared to white) – all increased likelihood of persisting from first to second year.

The authors considered a number of risk factors directly related, in addition to several theories pertaining to retention, and tested for variables to ensure that they were looking at relevant factors. The sample for their research consisted of students with various disabilities, including “(a) any sensory impairment, such as blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment, (b) any mobility impairment substantially restricting students’ basic physical activities, or (c) any other mental, emotional, or learning condition limiting students’ ability to learn, remember, and concentrate.” (p. 95).


The findings indicate that students with disabilities persist from first-to-second-year at a rate of 76.4%. There were discrepancies that existed between various disability groups, with students who have learning disabilities / dyslexia persisting at a rate of 85.7% (as the highest), and students with other conditions not specified persisting at a rate of 64.3% (as the lowest). Additionally, they found that specific accommodations and services were also correlated to a higher rate of persistence. Namely, students who received course substitutions, course waivers, readers, note takers, scribes, and students who participated in academic and social activities, as accommodations, saw a higher rate of persistency.

Limitations / Recommendations:

  • No consideration for physical accessibility of the campus
  • No consideration as to whether students utilized counseling services
  • Study examined persistence across ALL higher education, rather than a specific institution.
  • Limited variables (3) for examining social integration.
  • Explore similarities or differences between students with disabilities compared to students without disabilities.
  • Explore similarities or differences between 4-year, and 2-year institutions.
  • Explore factors that might impede or facilitate persistence to graduation.

Application to my own Action Research:

There were several acknowledged limitations in this study, and as such, an opportunity, to explore these limitations / factors, that may exist, moving forward in my own action research. At Arizona State University, we have a great relationship and partnership with our counseling services office. We partner extensively in support of student success. I wish to explore that relationship and the impact that it may have on persistence.

There is a great opportunity to explore the relationship that the Disability Resource Center has with each of the academic colleges. How might that relationship translate into creating factors which increase persistence, and to what extent already existing support services (i.e., Student Success Center, tutoring services, the Writing Center, utilization of assistive technology located in the Information Commons, etc.) impact the rate of persistence in students with disabilities.

Finally, I wish to explore the similarities and differences that may exist between students with disabilities, and those that do not have a disability.

I see great application in not only looking at other factors that may exist in my own research, exploring ways of increasing the likelihood that students with disabilities will persist at ASU, but also in improving the services that either already exist, or should be established in support of student success. Overall, I felt the article was well written, and has great relevance in higher education today.


Mamiseishvili, K., & Koch, L.C. (2010). First-to-Second-Year Persistence of Students With Disabilities in Postsecondary Institutions in the United States. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 54(2), 93-105.