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Role Of Two Year Colleges In The Preparation Of Engineering Students

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Bridging and Freshman Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1059.1 - 13.1059.8



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Paper Authors

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Dale Buechler University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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Christa James-Byrnes University of Wisconsin - Barboo/Sauk County

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

Role of two-year colleges in the preparation of engineering students


A major problem facing undergraduate engineering programs is attracting and retaining students. This problem is compounded for those students who do not have an adequate mathematics background upon arrival. Another issue is the high cost of college education which reduces the access to education for some students. Of interest is the role of two-year colleges in the preparation of such engineering students. This study looks at the relative success (GPA and retention) of 297 engineering students who took mathematics coursework at one of the system’s thirteen two-year colleges and then transferred to one of the three universities within the system that have multiple ABET accredited engineering programs. Over half of these students were initially placed at a level of pre-calculus or below. The success of these students is compared to like groupings of engineering students who went directly to one of the three system engineering schools. This study will look at the relative success of students as a function of initial math placement. In addition, the study will look at the relative success and retention of underrepresented groups.


Engineering education over the next decade provides numerous challenges. Our nation is currently facing a shortfall of well-trained engineers. This trend is likely to continue with the upcoming retirement of many of the nation’s engineers. Due to these trends universities are looking at ways to increase the number of students entering into engineering and to retain the students already in the program. In addition, engineering is looking at ways to attract under- represented students (female and disadvantaged minorities) to help meet the demands of industry. One of the biggest challenges of engineering student retention is the marked decrease in the mathematics proficiency of first-year college students. In 2000, nearly 15 percent of first- year engineering majors reported the need for remedial work in mathematics1 and the problem has not been going away. Students with interest in math, science, and engineering that graduate from high school are often unprepared mathematically to enter these fields.

In the past, engineering students with such deficiencies would not be admitted into the university, and such students would attend a local two-year college to obtain the required background prior to admission into the engineering program. In recent years, due to economic and political pressures, four-year universities have been enrolling students with mathematical deficiencies directly into their pre-engineering programs. The two-year colleges have responded by offering more upper-division coursework to local students. This begs the question: What is the role of the two-year colleges in improving engineering education. This paper attempts to

Buechler, D., & James-Byrnes, C. (2008, June), Role Of Two Year Colleges In The Preparation Of Engineering Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4223

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