2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Unnecessarily Complicated: An Examination of Information Asymmetry in the Transfer Process

Presented at Track: Collegiate - Technical Session 9

Keywords: Transfer, Engineering, 2 Year Institution, 1st Generation

The Engineer of 2020 (National Academy of Engineering, 2004) calls for the engineering discipline to broaden participation of underrepresented minority (URM), first-generation, and low income students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. Research that examines expanding access into engineering bachelor’s degree programs increasingly acknowledges the critical role of community colleges as lower cost pathways to bachelor’s degrees via engineering transfer programs. However, students’ ability to navigate complexities in transfer of coursework processes and policies between partner institutions is essential to maintaining cost and time-efficiency in degree completion.

Expanding on the Transfer Student Capital (TSC) Framework (Laanan, 2004; Moser, 2012), we use semi-structured interviews to engage faculty and staff in the College of Engineering at a large research university as well as at two partner public community colleges to explore how transfer students receive information about the transfer of coursework process at both the sending and receiving institutions. We focus particularly on the role of institutional structures, the design of advising services, and the nature of the partnership between institutions and their impacts on how students receive information on coursework transfer.

Using thematic analysis of the interview data, we find that students have access to several different sources of information but experience information asymmetry across those sources. Information asymmetry occurs when buyers (students) and sellers (colleges/universities) do not have the same information in a marketplace (Dunn, 2012). Students also have limited direct access to receiving institutions prior to application and admittance, particularly with advising offices who oversee transfer of coursework processes upon arrival at the university. These findings suggest a need for institutions to consider how they communicate information on transfer of coursework processes and policies, manage information accuracy, and how advising service structures may impact transfer students’ access to accurate information on transfer of coursework.

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