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Beyond SES: Individual Financial Status as a Predictor of Persistence for High-performing Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy I

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.245.1 - 23.245.9

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Paper Authors


James J. Pembridge Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ., Daytona Beach

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Dr. James J. Pembridge is an assistant professor in the Freshman Engineering Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, M.A. Education in Curriculum and Instruction, and Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. His research has focused on mentoring as pedagogy for project-based courses and understanding the adult learning characteristics of undergraduate students.

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Kacey Beddoes Purdue University

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Dr. Kacey Beddoes is a postdoctoral researcher with ADVANCE-Purdue in Purdue’s School of Engineering Education. She received her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech in 2011 and serves as managing editor of Engineering Studies and assistant editor of the Global Engineering Series at Morgan and Claypool.

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Beyond SES: Individual Financial Status as a Predictor of Persistence for High-performing Undergraduate Engineering StudentsEngineering education is an emerging research field that draws on and interacts with the broaderfield of education research. However, research on socioeconomic status (SES) constitutes only asmall part of the field. When it is addressed, it is typically in the context of diversity. Evenwithin the engineering education diversity literature, however, SES, or issues of social class,constitutes only a small percentage of papers, with the vast majority of work focusing on womenin engineering, racial and ethnic minorities to a lesser extent, and other types of diversity veryminimally addressed. Throughout this literature SES tends to be both tacitly and overtlyassociated with scholarship on K-12, underrepresented minorities, and a lack of academicsuccess and persistence. These associations may be problematic in undergraduate engineeringcontexts, however, given our findings as well as other prior research, revealing that persistencein engineering is not necessarily related to low SES.An examination of students who left an engineering program at a private institution in thesouthern region of United States, showed that 44% of students who left had a moderate gradepoint average (GPA > 2.5). These students had met minimum requirements for advancing intothe higher level engineering discipline specific courses yet decided to leave. One hypothesis wasthat these well performing students were leaving due to financial concerns. This lead to thefollowing research question: How does individual financial status (IFS) impact persistence ofhigh-performing engineering students?This paper and analysis builds on recent scholarship from CAEE and Midfield. It explores therole that individual financial need played in the attrition of high achieving engineering studentsand proposes individual financial status (IFS) as an important variable for future studies. Thispaper presents findings from analyses that include logistic regressions and group comparisons oninstitutional data from engineering students enrolled at a small private institution from 2001 to2010. The findings indicate a relationship between first-year course grades and IFS with respectto attrition and proposes individual financial status as an important variable for future studies.

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