Monday, March 24, 2014

STEM Study in Journal of College Student Development

By Patrick Coulombe

A recent study published in the Journal of College Student Development looked at contextual variables that were predictors of the fourth-year GPA of Hispanic students enrolled in a STEM major. The authors found that, after controlling for demographic variables such as gender and parents’ education, Hispanic students who frequently received support and encouragement from faculty members reported a higher GPA

Not surprisingly, students who spent more time on studying and homework also reported a higher GPA.
Interestingly, Hispanic students who were enrolled in culturally-relevant activities (such as an ethnic studies course or an ethnic student organization) reported lower GPAs. The authors propose that this may be due to students having less time to invest towards their studies. However, another explanation might be that Hispanic students who take part in culturally-relevant activities do so specifically because they do not feel comfortable or welcome into their academic program, and seek social support among peers through these extra-curricular activities.

Overall, almost a quarter of the differences in GPA among Hispanic STEM students that could be captured by the study were due to differences not in demographic variables (like gender and parents’ education) but in contextual variables. Therefore, it appears that the academic success of Hispanic students evolving in a STEM major in college is affected by the environment in which they study.

In a future study, instead of focusing on GPA, it would be interesting to use these same variables to predict whether Hispanic students in STEM majors go on to actually graduate with their STEM degree, or instead drop out or switch to a non-STEM major before completing their degree.


Cole, D., & Espinoza, A. (2010). Examining the academic success of Latino students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors. Journal of College Student Development, 49, 285-300.