ASQ - Education Division

Creating a Pipeline: An Analysis of Pre-College Factors of Students in STEM

Abstract: This paper is co-authored by Erica Harwell and Derek A. Houston, graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Educational Policy. This paper is included in the Proceedings for the ASQ 2012 Advancing the STEM Agenda Conference.

This study seeks to understand the pre-college factors of undergraduate students who select a STEM major by specifically focusing on parental occupations, the level of parental influence on choice of major, and the characteristics of the high schools attended by STEM majors. This study draws upon survey data collected from a total of 4,567 college students in 2010 (n=1,881) and 2011 (n=2,686) from a variety of majors at ten large research universities. Results regarding parental occupation and choice of major influence suggest that students with at least one parent in a STEM field choose to major in STEM at a higher rate than those whose parents are in STEM. However, the results also suggest that students’ choice of college major is greatly influenced by their parents, regardless of parent’s occupation. Results regarding high school characteristics suggest that the vast majority of students in STEM majors matriculate from schools that are majority white and are of high socioeconomic composition. The findings inform recommendations for STEM recruitment efforts that include providing parents with knowledge of STEM programs and establishing partnerships between underrepresented high schools and large research universities.

Keywords: STEM - Conference Proceedings - Higher Education Brief - STEM-Increase K-20 Interest and College Enrollment

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