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Recruiting And Retention Effectiveness

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.838.1 - 6.838.9

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Terrence Freeman

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

Session: 2793

Recruiting and Retention Effectiveness

Terrence L. Freeman St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley


The twenty-first century will be dominated by technological change as the United States economy becomes increasingly dependent on a technically literate workforce. Engineering is one of the careers that will help fuel the engine of economic growth1. If the United States is to maintain its technological leadership in this interdependent global economy an inclusive engineering education is a must.

Brainard and Carlin (1998) report that undergraduate engineering enrollments reached a peak of just over 406,000 students in 1983 and that this figure dipped to 318,000 by 19962. They continue by reporting that the number of engineering degrees granted also declined from almost 78,000 in 1985 to just over 65,000 in 1997. Shrinking engineering enrollments pose a potentially serious problem for American industry and society in general. While the annual graduation rate of engineering students has declined there has been an increase of over 25% in the demand for engineering jobs in the last decade3. Although the total number of engineering graduates at the baccalaureate level has declined since the mid-1980s, the percentage of engineering degrees awarded to underrepresented (African, Hispanic, and Native American) minorities has increased steadily from 2.9% in 1972-73 to 9.2% in 1994-951. Even with the increase, Reichert & Absher report that the degrees awarded are stills less than half of the combined representation of these minorities in the U. S. population.

Almost thirty years ago a national effort was launched to increase the number of minorities in the field of engineering1. The effort has met with some success and participation by minorities in science and engineering is at an all time high. Many major corporations now support the thesis that diversity makes good business sense. Hispanic, and Native Americans, however, still remain significantly underrepresented in science and engineering with roughly half of the science and engineering degrees awarded to minority citizens going to Asian Americans1.

Student success has received considerable attention during this time4. Administrators and researchers in colleges and universities have increasingly focused their attention on retention and attrition rates in higher education5,6,7,8. The difficulty of meeting the engineering needs of the U.S. economy is exacerbated by a disturbing trend. Over the past twenty years there has been an increase in attrition of engineering students. In 1975, the attrition rate for engineering freshmen was 12% and by 1990 it had grown to 24%9. Less than half of the students who start college as engineering majors actually graduate with an engineering degree. The attrition for minority students is approximately 70%10. This decline in engineering interest and persistence while the demand for engineers continues to rise is a major concern for industry and society.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provides statistics that demonstrate why the community college may be an important participant in meeting the postsecondary “Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Freeman, T. (2001, June), Recruiting And Retention Effectiveness Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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