Multiple reports call for engineering undergraduate programs to increase engineering enrollment while broadening field participation. The transfer pathway has been identified as a potential mechanism for achieving both goals. As the Model of Co-Curricular Supports (MCCS) demonstrates, providing support for undergraduate students is critical for supporting student success and maintaining a high college retention rate. Although providing support, in general, is important, it is also critical to pay attention to the specific needs of sub-groups of students that may require different kinds of institutional attention. Considering the needs of transfer students is one example of paying attention to a specific group. Offering support for transfer students not only contributes to their retention but also facilitates broadening participation in engineering since such students often are characterized by multiple marginalized identities in the field. Support can come in a variety of different forms, and undergraduate students can perceive various facets of support, as the MCCS asserts. Colleges need to evaluate the effectiveness of their investments across a wide range of different kinds of student supports. Regarding this matter, the STEM Student Perception of Support Instrument (STEM-SPSI) was developed to measure various support constructs perceived by students.
This research aims to explore the differential perceptions of support between transfer and first-time-in-college undergraduate engineering students using the STEM-SPSI. This instrument was developed and validated to measure various student-support constructs, including: 1- academic advising support, 2- faculty support, 3- STEM faculty connections, 4- academic peer support, 5- STEM peer connections, 6- out-of-class engagement, 7- student affairs support, 8- graduate student connections, 9- STEM career development, 10 - general career development, 11- cost-of-attendance support and planning, 12- diversity and inclusion. This research paper uses parametric and non-parametric group comparison techniques to identify differences in how transfer and first-time-in-college undergraduate students perceive support constructs. This quantitative study analyzes an online administered self-reported survey collected from more than 900 undergraduate students from nine colleges in the spring 2019 semester. Results suggest a significant difference between transfer and first-time-in-college undergraduate students in academic peer support, STEM peer connections, out-of-class engagement, and diversity and inclusion. These findings will highlight support areas that colleges need to allocate resources and suggestions for further interventions. Although it is promising that transfer students do not perceive support differences among many academic-related constructs, there does appear to be room for improvement in how we help transfer students connect with their peers in their new educational environment.
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