Asee peer logo

Describing The Pathways Of Students Continuing In And Leaving Engineering

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Modeling Student Data

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.346.1 - 15.346.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


George Ricco Purdue University

visit author page

George D. Ricco is a doctoral student in Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. He previously received an MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences studying geospatial imaging and an MS in Physics studying concentration in FT-IR studies in heavy water, both from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has a BSE in Engineering Physics with a concentration in Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

visit author page


Ida Ngambeki Purdue University

visit author page

is a doctoral student at Purdue’s School of Engineering Education. She received her B.S. from Smith College in 2007. She currently serves as the President of the Purdue Student Chapter of ASEE. Her research interests include engineering thinking, motivation and vocational choice in engineering, and sustainability policy.

visit author page


Russell Long Purdue University

visit author page

Russell A. Long is Associate Director of MIDFIELD and Director of Project Assessment in the
School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has twenty years experience in
institutional research, assessment, strategic planning, and higher education policy. He is a SAS
expert and manages the MIDFIELD database.

visit author page


Matthew Ohland Purdue University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Matthew W. Ohland is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue
University and is the Past President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He received
his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996. Previously, he served as Assistant Director of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Engineering Education Coalition. He studies longitudinal student records in engineering education, team-member effectiveness, and the implementation of high-engagement teaching methods.

visit author page


Demetra Evangelou Purdue University

visit author page

Demetra Evangelou is an Assistant Professor in Engineering Education at Purdue University,
College of Engineering. Her research interests include early engineering and the effects of
multiple influences on engineering thinking.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Describing the Migration of Students within Engineering


The number of students leaving their initial engineering discipline for other engineering disciplines and other fields of study is significant. This paper displays and describes the development of a model of the pathways taken by these students through their undergraduate academic careers. Specifically this paper looks at the migration of engineering students within various disciplines of engineering. This study uses the records of over 135,000 engineering student records from the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD). This research shows that approximately 20% of engineering students graduate from an engineering discipline other than that into which they matriculated, and approximately 40% of students who matriculate into an engineering discipline leave the field of engineering. This research also found that there are specific pathways popular with engineering students.


Research conducted over the past two decades has agreed that the rate of retention in engineering ranks amongst the lowest ranging from 30% to 50% nationally1 with an average of less than 50% of initial enrollees2,3. Prior studies with the MIDFIELD database, a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded longitudinal database containing the records of all undergraduate, degree seeking students from fall 1987 to 2005 at ten US institutions has reported numbers at the high end of this range and, more importantly, that engineering retention rate is higher than the typical retention rate in other disciplines in higher education.

Analysis of data from the MIDFIELD database has revealed that the rate of persistence amongst engineering students is not significantly lower than that of students in other disciplines in the database. A study of 70,000 students who enrolled in engineering programs found that engineering actually had the most students (57%) persisting through eight semesters4. Other disciplines had lower rates of persistence (see Table 1). Table 1: Persistence in various major groups to the eighth semester (data from Ohland et. al.4) Other Social Arts and Computer Major Engineering Business STM Science Humanities Science majors % Persisting to 8th 57 55 51 50 41 38 semester

Ricco, G., & Ngambeki, I., & Long, R., & Ohland, M., & Evangelou, D. (2010, June), Describing The Pathways Of Students Continuing In And Leaving Engineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16749

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015