Abstract 1020

Paper Title:First Generation College Students in Engineering: A Qualitative Investigation of Educational Barriers
Author:Julie Trenor, University of Houston, jmtrenor@uh.edu
Suggested track:Student retention and persistence
Presentation type:Full paper
Preferred Category:Engineering Education Research
Abstract: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 and distinctive barriers faced by 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 NVivo™ 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/ engineering. These results are consistent with, yet extend previous studies of first generation college students to the field of engineering. The barriers identified in this study 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.