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First generation college students in engineering: A qualitative investigation of barriers to academic plans

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4 Author(s)
Fernandez, M.J. ; Dept. of Mech. Eng., Univ. of Houston, Houston, TX ; Trenor, J.M. ; Zerda, K.S. ; Cortes, C.

While understanding factors that relate to the recruitment and retention of engineering students has garnered much attention in recent literature, little is known about the educational experiences of first generation college (FGC) students majoring in engineering. This work employed a social cognitive theoretical framework to qualitatively investigate the educational experiences of FGC engineering students at an urban research university. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants in this pilot study. Interview data were coded and content analyzed using NVivotrade software. Nearly sixty emergent themes were identified, including six major barriers: 1) lack of understanding of the college admissions process, 2) financial constraints, 3) difficulty of coursework, 4) lack of engineering role models, 5) role conflicts and 6) lack of parental understanding about higher education and/or engineering. These barriers are discussed in terms of developing effective recruitment and retention interventions for first generation college students majoring in engineering, and recommendations for future work are offered.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference, 2008. FIE 2008. 38th Annual

Date of Conference:

22-25 Oct. 2008