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The Effect of College Cost and Financial Aid on Access to Engineering

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Before and After: Matriculants and Alumni

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1292.1 - 25.1292.18



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Paper Authors


Xingyu Chen Purdue University

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Xingyu Chen is a Ph. D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She obtained her master's degree in operational research and bachelor's degree in mathematics from Zhejiang University, China. She started to pursue her Ph.D. degree in engineering education at Purdue in 2010. She is working with Dr. Ohland on the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD), and also on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database.

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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 more than $11.6 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. Ohland is Past 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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The Effect of College Cost and Financial Aid on Access to and Persistence in EngineeringFinancial factors have long been recognized to have substantial influences on access to andpersistence in college. Since the 1990s, tuition and fees have risen rapidly and steadily at mostinstitutions. During the same period, scholarships and fellowships to support college study havenot kept pace with tuition increases. Since the mid-1990s, various states have replaced need-based scholarships with merit-based scholarships to broaden access to higher education, ensurestudents attend in-state colleges, and encourage students to remain in state after graduation.Prior studies have examined how tuition and fees correlated with student enrollment and howfinancial aid (including merit-based scholarships) affects student enrollment and academicpersistence. This study adds to that body of work by studying institutional differences in theeffect of college cost and financial aid on access and persistence. This study particularly focuseson engineering students to explore access and persistence of an important underrepresentedgroup in engineering—students of low socioeconomic status.The research questions to be answered are: 1) To what extent do college cost and financial aid jointly affect student access, choice of college, fraction of in-state students, engineering enrollment? 2) How does this effect vary by state and by institution?To answer these questions, we analyze two large-scale databases: (1) The IntegratedPostsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database, which contains over 3,000 variables onenrollments, completions, finances, and other attributes for all institutions in the U.S. (2) TheMultiple Institution Database for Investigation of Engineering Longitudinal Development(MIDFIELD), which includes student record data at 12 public institutions and represents over1/9th of all U.S. engineering graduates. Financial indicators and enrollment variables for thisstudy are drawn from IPEDS, whereas academic variables and socioeconomic status (SES)indicator are from MIDFIELD. The timeline of the introduction of state-wide merit-basedscholarships was gathered in earlier research from the websites of state scholarship grantprograms and university catalogs.Descriptive statistics and difference-in-difference regression models will be used to determinethe relationship between financial factors and engineering students’ academic decisions. Amongthe findings is that among the 12 public MIDFIELD institutions, tuition and fees have escalatedrapidly in most institutions from 2000-2009. In the same period, the percentages of both out-of-state and lower-SES students dropped significantly in institutions where merit-based scholarshipscovered relatively large amount of tuition and fees. In comparison, the percentages of out-of-state students and lower-SES students did not change significantly in institutions where merit-based scholarship funds were either unavailable or covered a relatively small fraction of tuitionand fees.Results of this study will have significant implications for engineering educators andpolicymakers by informing decisions regarding recruitment, advising, and financial aid.

Chen, X., & Ohland, M. W. (2012, June), The Effect of College Cost and Financial Aid on Access to Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22049

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