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The Effects of Merit-based Scholarships on First-year Engineering Student Characteristics and Academic Behaviors

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

First Year Engineering

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1194.1 - 23.1194.22



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Paper Authors


Xingyu Chen Purdue University, West Lafayette

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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 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 $12.4 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 2011. Ohland is Past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002-2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Russell Andrew Long Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Access to and Course Enrollment in Engineering in Institutions with Merit-based ScholarshipsPromoting access to engineering and improving student academic achievement have been centralconcerns of engineering education. Both college access and academic decisions are affected bythe availability of financial aid. Since the 1990s, state governments have distributed billions ofdollars to offer merit-based scholarships to resident students in order to relieve students’financial stress, motivate students to attend in-state colleges, and promote better academicachievement.Prior studies have examined how merit-based scholarship affected student migration andacademic choices. This study adds to the conversation by comparing engineering students withstudents in other majors regarding changes in demographics and course selection behaviors.Meanwhile, we use non-resident students and states without merit-based scholarship as controlgroups to investigate differences across institutions and states.The research questions to be answered are: 1) To what extent does merit-based scholarship affect first-time resident engineering cohort patterns regarding academic preparedness and socioeconomic status? 2) To what extent does merit-based scholarship affect first-time resident engineering students’ course enrollment, withdrawal, and course grade in the first academic year? 3) How do these effects vary by state and by institution?To answer these questions, we utilize two large-scale databases: (1) The Common Core of Data(CCD) database—a database of National Center for Education Statistics that collects fiscal andnon-fiscal data annually from all U.S. public elementary and secondary schools; (2) The MultipleInstitution Database for Investigation of Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD),which includes student record data at 11 public institutions and represents approximately 1/10thof all U.S. engineering graduates. The percentage of students eligible for free lunch in aparticular state is calculated from CCD. Academic variables and socioeconomic status (SES)indicator are drawn from MIDFIELD. The information of merit-based scholarships was gatheredin earlier research from the websites of state scholarship grant programs and university catalogs.This study uses descriptive statistics to determine the changes of engineering cohort patterns.Difference-in-difference regression models are employed to examine the effects of merit-basedscholarship on course choice behaviors. Preliminary findings show that: (1) SAT score and SESindicator of first-time resident students increased after the adoption of merit-based scholarship.Institutions with higher rankings attracted more high-SAT and high-SES students. The increaseof SAT score was more prominent in engineering than in other fields. (2) Merit-basedscholarship encouraged resident students to attempt more credit hours, and increased theirchances of course withdrawal and summer course taking. Such behavioral responses seemed tobe less prevalent among engineering students.Results of this study will help engineering educators develop strategies to promote students’academic progress. Meanwhile, findings will inform legislators and state governors in accessingthe effectiveness of merit-based scholarship.

Chen, X., & Ohland, M. W., & Long, R. A. (2013, June), The Effects of Merit-based Scholarships on First-year Engineering Student Characteristics and Academic Behaviors Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22579

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