Faculty Interaction with Higher Education’s “Overlooked Majority”: Investigating the Impact of Non-Classroom Interaction on College Outcomes for Commuter Students.
Lyken-Segosebe, Dawn Elise
Across US colleges and universities as a whole, commuter students account for the majority of undergraduate and graduate students. Despite their majority status, commuter students represent an overlooked majority in terms of empirical research. This study examined the impact of non-classroom interaction between faculty members and first-year commuter students on cognitive and affective outcomes. While the popular perception of interaction between faculty members and commuter students is that it tends to be confined to the classroom because these students spend relatively less time on campus, little is known about out-of-classroom contact and its related outcomes-effects. The analytical methods of hierarchical linear modeling and propensity score matching were applied to data drawn from a random sample of 9,000 first-year commuter students who completed the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at 465 four-year colleges and universities. Findings indicate that communication via email is the most common form of interaction with faculty members. The more frequent the out-of classroom interaction, the greater are students’ levels of satisfaction with the college experience and intellectual skills development. The higher the rating these students give to the quality of their relationship with faculty members (that is, the more students consider faculty members to be helpful, available, and sympathetic), the greater are their levels of satisfaction with the college experience and intellectual skills development, and grade-point average. Furthermore, findings suggest that as compared to their peers who do not interact with faculty members outside the classroom, first-year commuter students who interact with faculty experience higher levels of satisfaction, and intellectual skills development. This study extends the body of knowledge on first-year commuter students and demonstrates how stronger inferences can be made when the endogenous student-faculty interaction variable is used in the estimation of student outcomes. Findings suggest both institutional action that enables increased contact between commuter students and faculty members, and additional research to advance what is known about student-faculty interaction among this student population.