A Comparative Study of Variables that Predict the Retention of Black Pre-Engineering Students and White Pre-Engineering Students at a Majority University
Type of Degreedissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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The persistence of Black engineering students to graduation from college continues to be of concern as the nation moves into a more globally diverse environment. Institutions have a large role to play to ensure that there is a large pool of diverse and talented students trained to work in a technological environment. While our population has become increasingly diverse, the educational institutions have not kept pace with the growth by providing educational opportunities that tap into the diverse human resources that correlate with the increase in the U.S. population. Even though there has been progress made over the years to improve the recruitment of Black engineering students, there still is a lack of awareness in identifying the factors that impede Black engineering students in their persistence to graduation with a degree in engineering. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the same nine dependent variables−knowledge and confidence, need help, academic success in engineering, likelihood of leaving engineering, likelihood of leaving Auburn University, academic difficulty, perceived difficulty, academic self-concept, and self-appraisal−used to predict the academic success and persistence of White pre-engineering should be used to predict the academic success and persistence of Black pre-engineering students. The research questions were these: Is race related to the nine dependent variables? Is status of students related to the nine dependent variables? Is the relationship between the status of students and the nine dependent variables different for Black pre-engineering students and White pre-engineering students? The participants, all pre-engineering students, were selected from 3,570 students who were enrolled for classes during the fall semesters 2000-2003. All incoming freshmen enrolled as pre-engineering students in the College of Engineering were required to complete the College Freshman Survey (Halpin & Halpin, 1996). After filtering, the number consisted of 386 Black students and 3,184 White students. Student status included 1,742 students who were admitted into their engineering major with an overall GPA ≥ 2.2, 939 students who were unsuccessful in advancing into their engineering major because they did not achieve an overall GPA 2.2, and 889 students who voluntarily left engineering with an overall GPA ≥ 2.2. MANOVA results revealed significant race differences on the set of nine dependent variables and significant status differences on the set of the nine dependent variables. ANOVA results revealed significant race differences on seven of the dependent variables and significant status differences on six of the dependent variables. A significant Race x Status interaction also resulted. For Black pre-engineering students, the results revealed no significant status differences for eight of the dependent variables. Academic self-concept was the only dependent variable for which there were significant status differences. For White pre-engineering students, significant status differences were found for all of the dependent variables. Based on the findings of the study, the same measures used to predict the academic success of White pre-engineering students should not be used to predict the academic success of Black pre-engineering students. The findings are useful for administrators, counselors, and teachers who are serious about using the most effective measures to predict the academic performance of Black pre-engineering students.