Date of Graduation

8-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Valerie H. Hunt-Whiteside

Second Committee Member

Kenda S. Grover

Keywords

Education, STEM, Educational attainment, Transfer students, Arkansas

Abstract

The US has a critical need to produce more STEM graduates and that need is exponentially more critical in Arkansas. Arkansas currently ranks last in the percent of STEM degrees conferred compared to overall degrees awarded. Students intending to pursue a STEM four-year college degree who start at a two-year college are significantly less likely to succeed in earning that degree. Arkansas passed Acts 672 and 182 aimed at strengthening the success of students who transfer from two-year colleges into four-year institutions. This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the Acts by determining if the University of Arkansas (UA) has seen an increase in the number of entering STEM transfer students along with an increase in the graduation rates compared to before 2005 when the legislation was passed. Based on the community capitals framework, select cultural and human capital variables for each Arkansas county were analyzed to determine their effect on STEM transfer rates.

This study found the graduation rate of STEM transfer students decreased after each Act was enacted. Subsequent analysis found a higher percentage of STEM transfer students failed to graduate from the UA, compared to entering new freshman. Human capital variables were not a significant predictor of STEM transfer rates for Arkansas counties. Select cultural capital variables were indicative of increased STEM transfer rates. Two-year colleges that provided access to transfer centers increased the number of transfer students pursuing STEM degrees. Recommendations for various stakeholders within the two-year colleges, UA and the state of Arkansas are provided to increase STEM participation and transfer success.

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