The Engineering Admissions Partnership Program: A navigation strategy for community college students seeking a pathway into engineering (Laugerman et al. 2013)
Laugerman, M., Shelley, M., Mickelson, S., & Rover, D. (2013). The Engineering Admissions Partnership Program: A navigation strategy for community college students seeking a pathway into engineering. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(5), 1260-1269.
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- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Engineering Admissions Partnership Program (E-APP) on retention rates of community college students who transferred to Iowa State University (ISU) to pursue an engineering degree. The intervention consisted of coordinated academic advising, peer mentoring, campus visits, and online social and professional networking.
- The study used student record data to examine outcomes for a treatment group of ISU students who participated in E-APP and a matched comparison group of ISU students who did not participate.
- The study found that E-APP had positive impacts on first-year retention rates at ISU.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not include sufficient controls in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to E-APP. Other factors are likely to have contributed.
E-APP was created in 2008 to improve transfer outcomes through connections to the university for community college students who transferred to ISU to pursue an engineering degree. E-APP fostered connections to the university through coordinated academic advising, peer mentoring, campus visits, and online social and professional networks. E-APP was a project initiative of Seeking Enrollment and Engagements through Connections (SEEC), a National Science Foundation-funded program that established a partnership between ISU and a multiple-location community college. E-APP was offered to all in-state community college transfer students at ISU and to students from the SEEC community college.
Features of the Study
The study analyzed student record data from community college transfer students who enrolled in ISU’s College of Engineering from fall 2002 to fall 2008. The authors used average math scores on the American College Test (ACT) to match E-APP participants to a comparison group of community college transfer students who did not participate in E-APP. To measure the impacts of E-APP on retention rates at ISU for community college transfer students, the authors computed mean differences and conducted statistical tests of these differences. The authors compared retention rates of E-APP participants and all in-state community college transfer students, as well as of E-APP participants and nonparticipating community college transfer students from the SEEC community college.
- The study found that, for all in-state community college students admitted to the College of Engineering at ISU, E-APP participants were 11 percent more likely to be retained at ISU. This difference was statistically significant.
- For SEEC community college students admitted to the College of Engineering at ISU, E-APP participants were 19 percent more likely to be retained in Engineering and 14 percent more likely to be retained at ISU. These differences were statistically significant.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study used a matching method to form the comparison group, which is a way to control for existing differences between treatment and control groups that might bias impact estimates. However, the matching procedure matched only on ACT math scores. The authors did not include other relevant covariates in either the matching procedure or in the impact analysis. This lack of statistical controls raises concerns that factors other than participation in E-APP could account for the observed differences in retention rates between treatment and comparison students. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not include sufficient controls in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to E-APP. Other factors are likely to have contributed.