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The Effect of High School ACT Scores on First-Year GPA of First-Generation Engineering Undergraduates

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ASEE-NE 2022


Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts

Publication Date

April 22, 2022

Start Date

April 22, 2022

End Date

April 23, 2022

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Ning Fang Utah State University

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Ning Fang is a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University, U.S.A. He has taught a variety of courses at both graduate and undergraduate levels, such as engineering dynamics, metal machining, and design for manufacturing. His areas of interest include computer-assisted instructional technology, curricular reform in engineering education, and the modeling and optimization of manufacturing processes. He earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering. He is a Senior Member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineering (SME), a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

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First-generation (FG) college students are generally defined as those undergraduates whose parents’ highest level of education is a high school diploma or less, or whose parents have never enrolled in postsecondary education. In the recent Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce issued by the U.S. White House on June 25, 2021, FG college students are included as one of “underserved communities.” This abstract, submitted for a poster presentation at the ASEE Northeast 2022 Conference, focuses directly on FG college students and addresses two conference topics: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion pipeline for engineering as well as success of diverse, underrepresented populations in engineering.

The recent 2017 statistical report from the U.S. Department of Education states that a significant percentage (24%) of college students are first-generation students, and many of them are from low-income families with racial and ethnic minority backgrounds as well. Existing research has shown that compared to their college peers, FG students are generally less prepared for entering college and have lower retention and graduation rates. However, not much research has been conducted to study how high school American College Testing (ACT) scores affect college Graduate Point Average (GPA) of first-generation engineering undergraduates. Conducting such research is important due to pressing demands to increase engineering retention and graduation.

This poster presentation will report our recent efforts to examine the relationship between high school ACT scores and first-year GPA of first-generation engineering undergraduates. A total of 168 FG engineering undergraduates at a land-grant research university in the U.S.A. were involved in the present study, including 53 FG students in Academic Year I, 57 FG students in Academic Year II, and 58 FG students in Academic Year III. The following data were collected from each student participant: first-year college GPA, ACT English score, ACT math score, ACT reading score, and ACT science score. Multiple linear regression was performed using first-year college GPA as the dependent variable and ACT scores as independent variables. In multiple linear regression, data collected from Academic Year I, Academic Year II, Academic Year III, and from all three academic years as a whole, were analyzed, respectively. Particular attention was paid to standardized coefficients (Beta) generated from multiple linear regression. Standardized coefficients (Beta) indicate the strength of the effect of independent variables (ACT scores) to the dependent variable (college GPA).

Based on the data collected from all three academic years as a whole, “in general,” ACT math score is a statistically significant predictor of college GPA (Beta = 0.310, p = 0.007); ACT English, reading, and science scores are not statistically significant predictors of college GPA. One standard deviation of increase in ACT math score would cause 0.31 standard deviations of increase in college GPA. However, these “general” conclusions do not always hold in every academic year because students are different from one year to another. The research findings generated from this research emphasize the importance of math in the success of first-generation engineering undergraduates.

Fang, N. (2022, April), The Effect of High School ACT Scores on First-Year GPA of First-Generation Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at ASEE-NE 2022, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts. 10.18260/1-2--42209

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