The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Applied Economics: M.S.




School of Public Affairs

First Advisor

King Banaian

Second Advisor

David Robinson

Third Advisor

David Switzer

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Student, Retention, Gravity, Attrition, St. Cloud State University, SCSU


Students not enrolling for their third semester at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) constitutes $8.1 million of potential revenue per academic year. This equates to a 30.8% attrition rate for the domestic, traditional, newly-enrolled freshmen in the 2006-2010 fall cohorts. If SCSU had improved its retention rate during those years to a level on par with Mankato State University, a close substitute, it could have earned an additional $1.4 million in tuition revenue per academic year. This thesis focuses on using a gravity approach to properly identify students at risk for third-term attrition. Gravity-based factors including the distance to SCSU from the student’s hometown, the population size of the student’s home zip code, and whether the student’s hometown was closer to one of the other six substitutable MNSCU universities than to SCSU were explored while controlling for student demographics, previous academic achievement from high school, current academic progress at SCSU, and various financial indicators. This thesis finds a non-linear, negative relationship between distance to a student’s hometown and the probability of retaining that student for their third semester. To put this in perspective, an average student from St. Cloud with a 69.3% chance of being retained would have a 55.7% chance of being retained if he came from St. Paul, MN due to distance and other gravity-related variables. This thesis also found several student-controlled factors that have a large impact on retention. An average student living on campus for her first semester with a 70.3% chance of being retained her third semester would only have a 62.8% chance of being retained if she did not live on campus. Also, an average student with academic difficulties can increase his chances of being retained by 9.7 percentage points (62.7% to 72.4%) by taking part in the ACE program. Further, this thesis uses two different tree models in addition to logistic regression to show consistency in model accuracy.