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Give It a Swirl? An Examination of the Influence of 4-Year Students Taking Entry-Level Math Courses at the Local Community College

A Correction to this article was published on 09 June 2022

This article has been updated

Abstract

Roughly half of 4-year students who begin as STEM majors either change to non-STEM majors or drop out of college altogether. STEM attrition is especially disconcerting for underserved students, such as people of color or individuals from low-income families, who are significantly less likely to persist in or graduate from a STEM degree program when compared to their White or higher-income peers. Previous researchers have reported that co-enrolling at more than one institution (or swirling between institutions) can be associated with higher rates of persistence and graduation. In this study, we leverage student-level transcript data from a high enrollment, broad-access university to examine the influence of math swirling on underserved students’ academic outcomes within high-demand STEM degree programs. We find that math swirling is positively related to persistence to upper-division math courses and bachelor’s degree completion in non-STEM degree programs, but math swirling has no influence on students' likelihood of bachelor’s degree completion in high-demand STEM fields.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Data Availability

The restricted-use datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to restrictions imposed by the providing institution.

Code Availability

Code is available upon request.

Change history

Notes

  1. Demand refers to annual job openings in STEM occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).

  2. Because the community college does not offer upper-division math courses, all students who enrolled in upper-division math did so at BAU.

  3. Students may choose to report scores on the math component of the SAT or ACT or a math placement exam that is administered by the math department at BAU. Missing scores (about 7% of the sample) were imputed using truncated regression, and ACT math scores were concorded to SAT scales (ETS, 2019).

  4. Computer Science and Engineering students at BAU are generally expected to enroll in Calculus I during their first semester, so remedial math coursework includes any for-credit or non-credit math course below Calculus I.

  5. For example, swirlers’ average grade in Calculus I (2.93 of 4.00 grade points, or B−) and Calculus II (2.96, or B−) taken at the community college were higher than non-swirlers’ grades in Calculus I (2.45, or C+) or Calculus II (2.61, or C+) at BAU.

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The original online version of this article was revised: The following details are updated in the article: (a). The Figs. 1 and 2 image are same. However, the figure 1 is now corrected. (b). The 2nd paragraph under “Discussion” section, the word “sub-subsample” in the 2nd sentence is changed to “sub-sample”.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

Table 10 Bias estimates and adjusted treatment estimates due to unobserved confounder
Table 11 Bias estimates and adjusted treatment estimates due to unobserved confounder
Table 12 Bias estimates and adjusted treatment estimates due to unobserved confounder
Table 13 Bias estimates and adjusted treatment estimates due to unobserved confounder
Table 14 Bias estimates and adjusted treatment estimates due to unobserved confounder

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Voorhees, N., Ortagus, J.C. & Marti, E. Give It a Swirl? An Examination of the Influence of 4-Year Students Taking Entry-Level Math Courses at the Local Community College. Res High Educ (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-022-09694-8

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Keywords

  • Higher education
  • Equity
  • STEM
  • Underserved students
  • Low-income students
  • Swirling
  • Co-enrollment
  • Propensity weighting
  • Quasi-experimental