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Socioeconomic Trends in Engineering: Enrollment, Persistence, and Academic Achievement

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Persistence and Retention I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1307.1 - 22.1307.9



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Paper Authors


Marisa K. Orr Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Marisa K. Orr is currently a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on the hurdles faced by students of low socioeconomic status, the interaction of gender and socioeconomic status, and gender differences across engineering disciplines. She received her doctorate in Mechanical Engineering and a Certificate of Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Nichole M. Ramirez Purdue University

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Nichole M. Ramirez is a graduate student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Alabama in 2010. She is a recipient of the Purdue Doctoral Fellowship and currently serves as treasurer of the Engineering Education Graduate Student Association. In addition to socioeconomic research, she is also interested in studying ways to integrate aerospace engineering and aviation technology education.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue 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 $11.4 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and multiple conference Best Paper awards. Dr. Ohland is Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and an At-Large member the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002 – 2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Socioeconomic Trends in Engineering: Enrollment, Persistence, and Academic AchievementSocioeconomic status (SES) is a growing issue in educational equity, diversity, and policy research.Previous work suggests that STEM majors, in addition to having higher measures of academicachievement, also come from higher socioeconomic strata. The goal of this study is to identifyrelationships between socioeconomic status indicators and engineering enrollment, persistence, andacademic achievement. Academic variables (engineering enrollment, persistence to the 3rd semester,and first year GPA) are drawn from the Multiple Institution Database for Investigation of EngineeringLongitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) database and high school codes are used to link data from theNational Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Percentage of students eligible for free and reducedlunch at each high school is used as an indicator of socioeconomic status. While this variable does notgive a direct indication of an individual student’s household socioeconomic status, it does indicate thesocial and cultural capital that the student is exposed to in his or her academic environment, and thuscultures his or her habitus (as defined by Bourdieu). Logistic regressions are used to identify trends inengineering enrollment and persistence while linear regression is used for GPA. Using regressiontechniques allows us to determine the predictive power of our SES indicator.While many studies have examined engineering enrollment, persistence, and academic achievementand a significant amount of literature exists regarding socioeconomic status, the intersection of thesetwo is virtually non-existent. This work begins to bridge the gap between engineering education and SESresearch by linking two substantial databases. The NCES database includes all public schools in the U.S.and the MIDFIELD database currently represents ten institutions and approximately one tenth of all graduates. As new institutions are added in the future, a similar protocol can be used toexpand this research further. Issues identified in this study will be used to generate SES models specificto engineering that can begin to inform academic policy, as well as the recruiting and advising ofstudents from all strata of socioeconomic status.

Orr, M. K., & Ramirez, N. M., & Ohland, M. W. (2011, June), Socioeconomic Trends in Engineering: Enrollment, Persistence, and Academic Achievement Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18499

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