Date of Award

Winter 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computational Analysis and Modeling

First Advisor

Marisa K. Orr


The purpose of this study was to determine how background knowledge impacts freshmen engineering students' success at Louisiana Tech University in terms of grades in two different freshman classes and graduation. To determine what factors impact students, three different studies were implemented. The first study used linear regression to analyze which demographic and academic variables significantly impacted freshman math and engineering courses. Using regression discontinuity, the second study determined if the university's placement requirement for Pre-Calculus was appropriate. The final study analyzed factors that impact graduation for engineering students as well as other disciplines to determine which significant variables were unique to engineering.

Numerous studies have focused on factors that influence engineering students' first year retention and graduation. However, studies have reached various conclusions which appear contradictory. For example, some studies determined that sex was a significant influence while other studies determined that it was not influential. Multiple studies found that academic factors such as high school rank or grade point average were important for engineering student success. With conflicting results, it is important to determine what is true for engineering students at Louisiana Tech University. Identifying factors that influence first-year grades, mathematics placement, and graduation could be useful for the recruitment, retention, and academic success of students. The participants in this study were freshmen engineering students who were enrolled in Louisiana Tech University between the fall of 2006 and the fall of the 2014/2015 school year. The variables used in the studies included high school GPA, ACT component scores, race, state residency, sex, enrollment in either the integrated freshmen engineering sequence or Living with the Lab, and peer economic status.