New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Minorities in Engineering
Our team conducted a detailed analysis of ABC University’s College of Engineering (COE) students’ admission and academic performance records in their first two years at the university. ABC University is located in a heavily populated city surrounded with many socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods. Our first goal was to measure how underrepresented students were admitted to the COE and how they performed academically in their first two years compared to the rest of the students. Our second goal was to identify and suggest action plans to increase the number of underrepresented students who enter the COE and to improve their retention rates within COE.
We limited our study to students who came to ABC University directly after graduating from high school. The data set included the records of more than 3,000 students who entered the University between 2008 and 2013. Each student’s record included high school Grade Point Average (GPA); ACT score; race; final course grades and the GPA values in the first 4 semesters. Each student in the data set was assigned an UnderRepresentation Score (URS), which was calculated based on the attributes of the high school that the student graduated from. The high school attributes included the College Readiness Index and Economically Disadvantaged Factor. Students who came from high schools with a low College Readiness Index and a high Economically Disadvantaged Factor were assigned a URS close to 1. A URS close to zero was assigned to students who came from high schools that had a very high College Readiness Index and a very low Economically Disadvantaged Factor. We observed that greater than 90% of applicants with very high URS were African Americans. It was also shown that the majority of applicants with low URS were of White or Asian descent. Therefore, we compared the subpopulations of African American with White/Asian Americans.
Our study included extensive data mining of the students’ data, where we chronologically traced each student’s academic performance over their first 4 semesters. In addition to standard performance indices, such as retention and dropout rates, we also defined new performance indices that were fundamental in measuring the academic performance of underrepresented students. For example, we used the expected value of the number of times a student needs to take a given science or math course as a measure of success.
Our analysis showed that by incorporating URS to the admission criteria, the COE could improve admission chances for underrepresented applicants who are normally denied admission but prove to be successful if admitted. We also showed that underrepresented students have higher dropout rates in their first three semesters compared to the rest of the students. However, those underrepresented students who stay and successfully finish their first three semesters, perform equally well, if not better, than the rest of the students. Based on this analysis, we have suggested a revised set of admission criteria for underrepresented applicants. We have also underlined the importance of monitoring and special advising systems for underrepresented students in the first three semester.
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