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Nontraditional Student Access and Success in Engineering

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

A Focus on Non-Traditional Students and Non-Traditional Course Delivery Methods

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.938.1 - 24.938.11



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Paper Authors


Jacqueline Bushey-McNeil Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Jacqueline Bushey-McNeil is a doctoral student in the Purdue University Department of Engineering Education. She has a bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering and a Master’s degree in Engineering Management, in which she was a mentored and tutored American Indian students in the Tiospaye Program, a program to help American Indians earn degrees in engineering, science, and math. Her dissertation topic is on engineering faculty, quality teaching, and how climate affects their pedagogy choices. She is also interested in nontraditional students' access and success in engineering education and is investigating this topic at Purdue University.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University and Central Queensland University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University and a Professorial Research Fellow at Central Queensland University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by over $12.8 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011. Dr. Ohland is past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Russell Andrew Long Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Russell Long is Director of Project Assessment at the Purdue University School of Engineering Education. He has extensive experience in assessment and student services in higher education and has worked for eight years as the Data Steward of the MIDFIELD project.

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Abstract for ASEE 2014 Nontraditional student access and success in engineering There is a shortage of baccalaureate engineering majors in the United States. Engineeringinstitutions need to attract more students. The National Science Board has published a detailedreport about the importance of maintaining and increasing the number of Science, Technology,Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors in the U.S. to stay competitive in this increasing globaleconomy. Nontraditional students could be a huge, potential source of engineers in the UnitedStates. The number of nontraditional students is increasing in higher education but is still a smallpopulation in engineering. Private, for profit institutions have been very popular and haveattracted many nontraditional students, with their enrollment of nontraditional students reaching89%. Nontraditional students have been studied in community colleges and urban universities,but have been rarely studied at public 4-year universities in engineering due to a lack oflongitudinal data on individual students. We studied nontraditional students using the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD).MIDFIELD is large enough to provide a better understanding of nontraditional students in public4 year universities, identify conditions where they are more numerous and more successful, andexplore the conditions that support their success. MIDFIELD is a longitudinal, multi-institutional, and multivariate dataset of over 209,737 engineering students. In this research, weexamine nontraditional and traditional students that may be similar or different in outcomes anddemographics. The focus is on engineering, rather than all the Science, Technology, Engineeringand Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, because engineering is different from science, technology,and mathematics. The reported results are representative of large public institutions that haveengineering departments and colleges. The universities in our data are a good representation ofthe U.S. engineering Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. This research informs the process ofbroadening participation in engineering to increase the quantity and diversity of engineeringbaccalaureate degree recipients. Specifically, this research helps us understand the demographics and outcomes ofnontraditional engineering students. Results from the research show that nontraditional studentsare 10% of the undergraduate engineering population from 1988 to 2002. We find that 37% oftraditional students who switch into engineering graduate in engineering, whereas only 16% ofnontraditional students who switch into engineering make it to graduation. This suggests thatnontraditional students face additional barriers that limit their ability to switch into engineering. This inquiry will lead to the identification of practices that promote the access andsuccess of a larger and more diverse population of nontraditional students.

Bushey-McNeil, J., & Ohland, M. W., & Long, R. A. (2014, June), Nontraditional Student Access and Success in Engineering Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22871

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