Money, Math and Engineering: The Relationships Between Community Economics, Math Preparation and the Graduation of Racially Underrepresented Engineers

Open Access
Freeman, Amy Louise
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 19, 2009
Committee Members:
  • William J Rothwell, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • William J Rothwell, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Judith Ann Kolb, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Kenneth Carter Gray, Committee Member
  • prediction
  • recruitment
  • math programs
  • minority engineering program
  • STEM
  • poverty
  • race
  • retention
  • money
  • precollege
  • underrepresented
  • minority engineering
  • minority
  • math preparation
  • summer bridge
  • high school funding
  • MEP
  • diversity
  • graduation
  • engineering
  • multicultural
  • funding
  • high school
  • engineering shortage
  • Penn State
A primary gateway to a career in engineering is the attainment of the bachelor of science degree in engineering. In contrast, a common barrier to becoming an engineer is failure to attain the degree. Those variables that are related to college graduation are often in place prior to college admission. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of four independent variables that were in place after high school graduation for African American and Hispanic American engineering students (N=504), and the correlation of these variables with college graduation outcomes five years later. These factors included Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) math scores, calculus preparation level as identified through the Penn State First-Year Testing, Counseling and Advising Program (FTCAP) score, high school grade point average (GPA), and the community economic index (CEI) which indicated the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced cost lunch at a given student’s high school. Three college graduation outcomes were defined as: engineering graduate, other graduate and non-graduate. It was determined that the high school CEI was negatively correlated with math preparation. Math preparation was positively correlated with the likelihood of graduation in engineering. Non-graduation (as compared to graduation in engineering) is positively correlated with the CEI, although the CEI is not significantly correlated with high school GPA. A multinomial logistic regression showed that the combined effect of the GPA, FTCAP, SAT and CEI does explain 75.6% of the variance in graduation outcome. In summary, access and admission for all engineering college students is determined by pre-college math preparation. High school math preparation is determined by the degree of funding available to high schools which, in turn, is affected by the local tax base or income level of local residents (partially indicated through the CEI). This would suggest that engineering access is not only a result of social and academic conditions, but also of economic conditions that could conceivably have a tangible economic solution.