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Methods that provide an early indicator of factors that affect student persistence are important to colleges and universities. This quantitative research focused on the role of level of entry mathematics and English and also on grades earned in those classes as they relate to persistence after one year. The research showed that by far, the variable most predictive of first-time, full-time students enrolling one year later was earning a grade of “A” in English. Compared to those who did not pass their first English course, students who earned an “A” were three times more likely to persist. The variables which at least doubled the likelihood of persistence included earning an “A” or a “B” in mathematics, a “B” in English, and taking an English course beyond freshman English. While course level taken was significant, the course level effect paled compared with grades earned as a predictor. This effect – of grade earned being more important than course level – included remedial coursework in mathematics and English. In addition, obtaining a high grade in English was equally important for both STEM and non-STEM majors. Finally, students who took both mathematics and English courses their first year were more likely to persist than students who did not take both subjects.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Journal of the London Mathematical Society, published by Wiley on behalf of the London Mathematical Society. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1112/jlms.12023