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Exploring Graduate Funding: Variation Across Engineering Disciplines and Relationships to Student Engagement and Satisfaction

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Graduate Student Needs and Experiences, Exploring Graduate Funding and Undergraduate Research Experiences

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

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Paper Authors


Timothy Kinoshita Virginia Tech

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Timothy Kinoshita is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His research interests include graduate education, curriculum development, faculty development, global engineering education, and education policy.

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Catherine T. Amelink Virginia Tech

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Dr. Amelink is Director of Graduate Programs and Assessment in the College of Engineering, Virginia Tech. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Departments of Engineering Education and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech.

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David B Knight Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, and Human-Centered Design Program. His research focuses on student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering, learning analytics approaches to improve educational practices and policies, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organizational change in colleges and universities, and international issues in higher education.

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Top 3 Session Topics: 1. Graduate student needs and experiences 2. Enabling diversity in engineering graduate education 3. Potpourri

While undergraduate education helps to support a stable economy, innovative solutions to the greatest challenges facing the nation and world are found through a highly skilled workforce with graduate-level training. A number of funding mechanisms are in place to support graduate students as they pursue their degrees in the form of assistantships and fellowships. Direct personal benefits of these funding mechanisms are apparent, for example, removing the financial burden of students to continue their educations. However, little prior research examines the relationships of these funding mechanisms to the graduate student experience. To investigate this issue, our study leveraged a survey distributed to graduate students in engineering at a large, research-intensive university in the eastern United States.

This exploratory study addressed the issue through two primary research questions: 1) What is the variation of funding mechanisms across engineering disciplines? 2) How does funding mechanism relate to student characteristics (e.g., gender), student engagement, and student satisfaction? T-tests and analysis of variance were used to identify statistically significant differences in funding mechanism across engineering disciplines and student characteristics. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to relate current funding type (e.g. teaching assistantship, research assistantship, fellowship) to survey items regarding student engagement (e.g. interactions with faculty and students) and student satisfaction (e.g. quality of education). Factor analysis was conducted to combine survey items into similar constructs.

Initial results demonstrate differences in the relationship between funding mechanism and various constructs of student engagement and satisfaction. While this research is still in its explorative stages, the results have significant policy implications. A noteworthy amount of research on graduate education generally addresses the high attrition rate and institutional factors that contribute to student persistence. Of those factors, researchers have identified student engagement and satisfaction as a key component of student success. To promote engineering graduate student success and degree completion, administrators, faculty, and policy makers should consider the unintended consequences of graduate student funding and enact support mechanisms to facilitate degree progress and completion. Future research will look to examine the underlying processes behind our results and explore remediation solutions to better support graduate student success.

Kinoshita, T., & Amelink, C. T., & Knight, D. B. (2016, June), Exploring Graduate Funding: Variation Across Engineering Disciplines and Relationships to Student Engagement and Satisfaction Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26847

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