The influences of student- and school-level factors on engineering undergraduate student success outcomes: A multi-level multi-school study

Xi Wang, University of Mount Union
Minhao Dai, Kennesaw State University
Robin Mathis, Kennesaw State University


Background: Given the relatively low graduation and retention rate in undergraduate engineering programs in the United States, the factors that influence student success outcomes need to be examined. However, limited research systematically studied both student- and school-level factors and how they influenced undergraduate engineering student success outcomes. We gathered responses from 458 engineering undergraduate students in a cross-sectional multilevel multi-school (14 schools) survey. These 14 schools included both large state universities and liberal arts colleges. The survey measured various student-level factors, including demographic, skills, and personality variables, along with seven school-level factors, such as student–faculty ratio and school type (i.e., public versus private). The data were analyzed using the hierarchical multilevel modeling approach. Results: The results showed that female students reported better outcomes than male students, racial minority students reported better outcomes than White students, but first-generation students reported poorer outcomes. Communication competency was associated with student learning outcomes, GPA, and program satisfaction, whereas conflict management preferences were not significantly correlated with any student success outcomes. The results of the school-level factors’ influences on student success outcomes were not consistent, but some factors, such as student–faculty ratios and diversity rate, were significantly related to some student outcomes. Conclusion: Engineering education is a complex, multi-faceted issue that requires more collaborative and systematic research. We hope our findings help educators understand the different factors that could potentially influence engineering students and inform better program design and policymaking.