The Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), is St. Lucia’s lone indigenous tertiary level institution, emphasizing almost unrestricted access once qualification requirements are met. These requirements exclude assessing readiness for college, giving the misconception that meeting entry requirements equates to preparedness. Some students transition successfully but many fail to adjust and decline in academic performance. This study empirically explores key transition challenges and factors affecting sustainable academic performance at SALCC and identifies strategic interventions for addressing the problem of academic performance decline. Objectives include identifying student and school-based factors on students’ sustainable academic performance and examining the extent of the influence of student and school-based factors on students’ sustainable academic performance. Wahlberg’s Model of Educational Productivity informs the identification of student-and school-based factors, potentially impacting learners’ performance.
Mixed methods, primarily employing a case study and incorporating questionnaires, observational schedules, interviews, and document analysis were used. The sample size of 939 participants included, 180 current students utilized for statistical analysis, 709 past students, 11 lecturers, 1 staff of the SALCC Students Services Unit, 30 secondary school teachers, 3 guidance counsellors, and 5 employers of past students were utilized for qualitative analysis. Stratified random sampling, with convenience and purposive sampling were used as appropriate. Statistical analysis, employing correlation and logistic regression was used for quantitative data, while thematic and descriptive statistical analysis was used for qualitative data.
Among the findings, prior academic performance had the most significant influence on students’ sustainable academic performance. New school environment, teacher expectations, and SALCC expectations showed a positive correlation with academic performance. Motivation, ability to adjust, perception of contact hours and keeping up with demands had a positive correlation with academic performance while prior academic performance, attending class regularly and access to support had a negative correlation. Age, gender, comfort level working in groups or individually and completing assignments on time showed mixed results. Lack of a structured systemic transition program and inadequacy of resources were identified. Key recommendations include development of a structured transition program, setting learning success indicators, effective scheduling of courses and providing adequate classroom and personnel resources to assist students.