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Board 47: College Engineering Attainment among Rural Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division Poster Session

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Educational Research and Methods

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Jean Felix Ndashimye Universty of Missouri-Columbia

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Jean Felix Ndashimye is a doctoral student in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ndashimye holds a Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Missouri. His main research interests are program evaluation and education policy.

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Rajeev Darolia University of Kentucky

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Rajeev Darolia is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Kentucky. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from George Washington University.

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The Geography of College Engineering Success: Exploring Rural--Nonrural Disparities

Project funded under the NSF Division of Engineering Education and Centers

Attracting more and diverse students into engineering programs has been identified as one of the strategies for achieving the overall national goal of increasing the number of engineers needed in the workforce. However, research shows that barriers to entry and high dropout rates for students in engineering programs pose a challenge to achieving this goal. Although much attention has been given to the gap in engineering degree attainment across racial and gender groups, there has been relatively little attention paid to geographic differences. This lack of focus is notable given that there is consistent evidence that college outcomes for rural students lag behind those of their counterparts from non-rural settings (i.e., urban and suburban locales). There are numerous reasons that could explain these gaps, including: rural schools often lack the resources of urban and suburban schools; rural students may be less likely to be proximate to engineering programs; cultural differences; and differences in preparation.

We use data on 14 cohorts of students from all public high schools who entered a public college in Missouri from 1996-2009. For each cohort, we have a record for a student’s declared major upon college entry, whether the student graduated, and the field of study for her degree. We use these data to determine how much students’ high schools (including course access, measures of high school quality, and other measures of high school resources) and geographic locations contribute to the observed rural--nonrural engineering degree gap. In essence, we decompose differential engineering degree attainment across students from different locales into observed characteristics using integrated data on high schools, students, and college pathways that is richer than what has been available in past research. These rich data are important because examining college outcomes based on students’ geographic background is subject to different sources of potential bias; factors such as socioeconomic background, high school performance, high school preparation, and future career and residential plans are correlated with students’ locale.

Engineering and science professions have among the highest labor market returns and are expected to experience much greater job growth than other professions. Increasing the number of engineers from rural communities might, therefore, be a viable strategy to not only meet the future workforce demands but also to revamp economic growth in many rural communities across the United States, which have been negatively affected by the changes in the US economy over the recent decades.

Ndashimye, J. F., & Darolia, R. (2019, June), Board 47: College Engineering Attainment among Rural Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32356

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