The influence of college experience on students' social and occupational values

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

James D. McKinney, Committee Chair


Relatively few studies over the last decade have explored freshman-to-senior change in intrinsic social values and extrinsic occupational values during the college years. Even fewer have monitored the differences in students' social and occupational values on an annual basis. This study examined the influence of higher education on students' intrinsic social values and extrinsic occupational values by obtaining groups of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior ratings of the importance of life goals and by varying gender and ethnicity in the design. Life goal items were obtained from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program's annual freshman Student Information Form. A principal components factor analysis confirmed the existence of two scales, Social Commitment and Extrinsic Rewards, that measured intrinsic social values and extrinsic occupational values respectively.A random sample of 1,111 degree-seeking undergraduates was drawn from the College of Arts and Sciences at a private research university in the southeastern United States. A 2 x 4 factorial design was used to assess the effects of the length of exposure to college and gender on students' social and occupational values. Based upon the literature, it was hypothesized that student endorsement of intrinsic social values would be higher as a function of amount of college exposure as operationalized by class and that it would be lower across class levels for extrinsic reward values independently of gender. As predicted, student endorsement of extrinsic reward values was lowest for seniors as compared to juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. The reverse, however, was not true for intrinsic social values. There was relative stability in intrinsic social values across the four class groups. Although gender did not interact with class, female students showed higher scores on intrinsic social values than males who did not differ from females on extrinsic occupational values. Since cell sizes were smaller, two sets of exploratory analyses were done for ethnicity. The first was a 2 (gender) x 4 (ethnic group) ANOVA on intrinsic and extrinsic values and the second was a 4 (class) x 4 (ethnic group) ANOVA on the same two variables. The groups of Senior Hispanics and Others were least likely to endorse extrinsic reward values than the corresponding racial/ethnic groups of freshmen. Interestingly, Blacks, who were most likely to endorse the goals of social commitment, were also most likely to endorse extrinsic reward values.


Education, Administration; Education, Higher

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