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Retention and CBTL

Community-Based Transformational Learning by the Numbers: How Community-Based Transformation Learning (CBTL) Boosts Retention

Sarah J. Beard, Rebecca Mott, Heather Burk, and F. Dan Richard


What is the Problem?

Retention rates from students entering into their third year of college are low.  Based on the data reviewed in this analysis, only 66% of students are retained in their third year.  Given that admission criteria only explains some of the relationship between the student and the University, a research study was completed to evaluate the relationship between students experiences (i.e. CBTL experiences) and retention.


The sample:

  • 35,416 students who registered for classes between the Summer 2010 and Spring 2016 semesters
  • Of those, 14,460 were eligible for being included in third-year retention numbers during those semesters (freshman admits, FTIC)
  • Of those, 978 had registered for at least one CBTL course in their first two years at UNF

What is the Research Question?

  1. Does CBTL participation relate to retention into the 3rd year?
    • If so, to what extent?
    • How can we control for the influence of other associated factors (e.g. high school G.P.A., declared Major, etc.)? 

Methods and Analyses:


Propensity-score matching was used to closely pair the 978 students who had registered for a CBTL course in their first two years at UNF with 978 equivalent students who had NOT registered for a CBTL course in their first two years.

Students were then matched on:

  • High school G.P.A.
  • Lower-level G.P.A.
  • Financial Need
  • Bright Futures Scholarship
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Major Discipline (e.g. STEM, Social Sciences, Humanities, Health, Education, or Business)


Participation in CBTL experiences was associated with higher likelihood of retention.

 CBTL by the Numbers graph - text below photo

Research shows students who take Community-Based Transformational Learning (CBTL) courses are 13 percent more likely to be retained into the third year. That’s about 80.5 percent compared to 67.3 percent of non-CBTL students.

The overall benefits for specific students depended on other factors.

Financial Aid:

  • There was a larger effect for students with Bright Futures scholarships.
  • There was a larger effect for financially* secure students.


There was a smaller effect for Business and Health Majors.

Student Characteristic
Retention Boost
(% chance)
Enrollment Boost**
(# of students per year)
CBTL OVERALL 13% +286 students
Bright Futures 14% +308 students
Financially Secure 20% +440 students



What does this mean?

  • Participation in CBTL activities in a student's first two years is associated with an increase in retention for students with both high and low high school G.P.A.s.
  • Participation in CBTL activities and experiences can be increased through programming
Note: This study did not have a sufficient number of students to be able to test second-year retention and the impact of CBTL courses because so few students had a CBTL course in their first year.



Download a copy of the Community-Based Transformational Learning results.


*Financially secure refers to unmet financial need of zero.
**Based on enrollment of 2,200 students per year.