First-Year Engineering Projects » Retention Results
First-Year Projects Course Improves Student Retention in Engineering
Initially offered in spring 1994, CU's First-Year Engineering Projects course has been a model for hands-on learning that has been adopted by many engineering schools nationwide. This highly-successful course provides students with the opportunity to put engineering theory into practice early in their undergraduate years through working in teams to design, build and test new products and inventions.
A multi-year study published in Science magazine reveals a significant improvement in the retention rate among students who take the projects course during their first year in college -- a gain that is even more marked among women and students of color.
The study, performed by assessment specialist Daniel Knight , analyzes 10 years of enrollment data in a sample of 6,315 engineering students. Results show a seventh-semester retention rate of 68% for students who enrolled in the projects course during their first year, compared to 58% for those who did not take the course.
Retention rates are even higher for under-represented populations: 69% of women who took the projects course in their first year were retained into their seventh semester, as were 73% of African American students. Retention rates for those who did not take the course fall below the college average of 63%.
Jackie Sullivan , founding co-director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and a champion of the projects course, says student feedback indicates a number of positive outcomes that are especially key among women and students of color. Students report that the course helps them understand and get excited about the engineering profession, gives them hands-on experience that builds their confidence in their ability to succeed in engineering, and helps to create a sense of community by having students work together on team projects.
"This course helps to address the national problem of declining numbers of engineering graduates by giving students a chance to experience real engineering design and product creation early in their college experience," Sullivan says.
"Unlike the national trend, CU continues to graduate a steady stream of well-prepared engineers, and the First-Year Engineering Projects course is helping us retain more women and students of color, which is also vitally important for the future of our nation."