Title page for ETD etd-11102009-171301

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wildman, Kelli Elaine
Author's Email Address kwildman@cbu.edu
URN etd-11102009-171301
Title Factors That Influence College Students Who Choose Engineering as Their Major to Persist in That Major to Their Fifth Semester
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Human Resource Education Workforce Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Burnett, Michael Committee Chair
Johnson, Earl Committee Member
Johnson, Geraldine Committee Member
Verma, Satish Committee Member
Wiley-Patton, Sonja Dean's Representative
  • student persistence
  • engineering retention
  • enrollment management
Date of Defense 2009-11-06
Availability unrestricted
Individuals, institutions, and society are affected by whether or not students persist in college; therefore, persistence and retention on college campuses is an important topic for higher education systems. However, little research has been done on program retention. Since engineering as a profession is expected to increase, it is imperative to have students persist in the major.

The primary purpose of this study is to determine the influence of selected demographic and academic characteristics in the decision of first time in college (FTIC) traditional-age undergraduates who declare engineering as their major at admission to persist in the curriculum from second to third year at a small private university in the southeastern portion of the United States.

The target population for this study was defined as the first time in college (FTIC) traditional-age undergraduate students who declared engineering as their major when they were admitted in the fall 2005 and 2006 semesters. For the research instrument, 20 independent variables were collected from Admissionsí, Student Financial Servicesí, the Registrarís, and Academic Servicesí databases and transferred to a computerized recording form.

Using stepwise multiple discriminant analysis, the researcher identified a significant model that increased the researcherís ability to accurately explain the persistence of FTIC traditional-age undergraduate students who declared engineering as their major when they were admitted. The model correctly classified 79.1% of the cases, which was a 58.2% improvement over chance.

The researcher recommended further studies to increase the percentage of correctly classified cases by integrating these variables with others to further explain persistence/non-persistence. Variables she suggested were the amount of the studentís financial aid portfolio, as well as high school math courses taken by the student and the grades he/she earned.

The researcher found that many of the non-persisting students had pre-college academic success, and so the researcher recommends that the institution conduct exit interviews to find out why these students chose to not persist in Engineering. She also recommends the implementation of a learning community, a living and learning environment that combines social and academic integration for the students.

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