To address the need for a high-quality, diverse engineering workforce, it is imperative that students from all socio-economic levels can access and complete engineering degrees. However, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds and students with financial need may experience difficulty seeing themselves as engineers. Previous literature has documented the challenges of engineering students; yet, little research has connected the concepts of engineering identity and financial need.
This systematic literature review focused on engineering identity and its connection to student financial need. After an exhaustive review of peer-reviewed materials from 2000-Present, the researchers found few studies that connected concepts of engineering identity and financial need. The majority of existing studies which connect these concepts are focused on traditional-aged, full-time, undergraduate students at four-year institutions. The existing studies focus less on the engineering identity experiences of post-traditional students (25+, working full-time, financially independent, or military) and of graduate students or those situated at community colleges or private institutions. In addition, these studies do not fully explore the intersecting identities (e.g. race/ethnicity, LGBT, gender) of engineering students from varying socio-economic levels.
The absence of a robust grouping of studies connecting these topics emphasizes the need to more fully understand engineering identity through the lens of financial need and expand how scholars investigate these concepts. If engineering education scholars fail to consider engineering identity from a variety of student standpoints, including those from all socio-economic backgrounds, our understanding will remain limited.
Ultimately, this work will provide a more robust understanding of the connections and gaps in the engineering identity and financial need literature as well as support new directions for future scholarship, policy, and practice.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.