June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
NSF Grantees Poster Session
24.129.1 - 24.129.6
Access to Cooperative Education Programs and the Academic and Employment Returns by Race, Gender, and DisciplineA cooperative education program (co-op) in engineering is a partnership between an academicinstitution and an employer designed to engage students in practical engineering experiencethrough rotations of full-time employment and course study. Co-op employment providesstudents with discipline-relevant professional experience, financial support, and early entry intothe engineering labor force while serving as a recruitment tool for co-op companies. While muchis known about the value of cooperative education programs, relatively little is known about whythere are different rates of participation by race/ethnicity and how recruitment and pre-screeningpractices influence the diversity of students who participate in co-op programs. The objectives ofthis research project are to identify factors that influence student access to cooperative educationprograms and to determine the educational and employment returns associated with participation.Data include comprehensive longitudinal academic student records from seven partnerinstitutions that comprise the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating EngineeringLongitudinal Development (MIDFIELD). MIDFIELD includes 23 years of student demographicand transcript data from 1987 through 2009. Methods include descriptive statistics andregression analyses. Across all institutions and years, an average of 23% of engineering studentsin the population participated in a co-op experience. The fraction of co-op students differs byengineering discipline and matriculation year. While male and female students participate atrates consistent with their representation in the engineering student population, Black studentsare much less likely to participate than are Hispanic, Asian, or White students. Due to co-opeligibility requirements, there is differential selection for students who have higher first-yeargrade point averages. This selection bias suggests that the positive outcomes often associatedwith co-op participation may partially be due to the selection of students with higher academicachievement.Additionally, administrative co-op data from a large research-intensive institution are examinedusing descriptive statistics to identify patterns in student interest and placement in co-ops. Datafrom 2011 indicate that 87% of students who expressed an interest in co-ops completed theapplication process. Among those who completed the application process, only 39% receivedand accepted placements. Research findings will also identify the source of non-participationamong students who initially expressed an interest in co-ops distinguishing between student-driven choices, employer hiring practices, and co-op programmatic requirements and policies.This work will thus contribute to the development of strategies to further enhance co-oprecruitment and engagement of engineering students from a broader range of backgrounds,interests, and experiences as a pathway to increase the overall diversity of the professionalengineering labor force.
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