Predictors of Latina/o community college student vocational choice of STEM fields: Testing of the STEM-vocational choice model
Larry H. Ebbers
This study confirmed appropriate measurement model fit for a theoretical model, the STEM vocational choice (STEM-VC) model. This model identifies exogenous factors that successfully predicted, at a statistically significant level, a student's vocational choice decision to pursue a STEM degree at transfer. The student population examined for this study was Latina/o community college students enrolled at a 2-year college in Florida.
Latina/o community college students were selected as a target population, as they represent the largest underrepresented demographic in the United States. Increasing student degree attainment, particularly in STEM fields for this ethnic population, would provide economic opportunity for a dominant demographic of the United States and address STEM degree educational pathway challenges. Latina/o students select predominantly community colleges as their higher education pathway, thus findings from this study will inform research, literature, and practice for community colleges serving the country's Hispanic population.
The STEM-VC model is an adaptation of the theoretical framework of social cognitive career theory (SCCT). This study built upon the original SCCT model through the addition of new posited exogenous variables for examination. As such, research conducted was not a direct or complete application of the SCCT model. Exogenous factors introduced for examination included academic achievement, transfer capital, and student validation. These constructs were informed by several resources in the literature including Laanan's (2007) Transfer Student Questionnaire (L-TSQ) and his transfer student capital constructs (Laanan, 2004, Laanan, Starobin, & Eggleston, 2011). The work of Kraemer's (1995) model of transfer intention supported academic achievement. The qualitative work of Laura Rendón (1993) provided support to examine student validation. Finally, recent studies by Lent et al. (2011), Byars-Winston et al. (2010), and Xueli Wang (2013 directly informed the methodology for this study.
The analysis for this study was conducted on aggregate data of community college students enrolled spring 2013 at a college in Florida. SSSL Sample College (pseudonym) is a large community college with an average enrollment of 42,000 students, eight branch campuses, and a Latina/o enrollment of 30%. The methodology of this study included a combination of statistical analyses. A review of direct group comparisons between Latina/o students and White students on key factors were examined to understand differences within the aggregate sample data. A logistic regression was conducted to understand the level of prediction vocational goal associated variables predicted STEM vocational choice. Confirmatory techniques, confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling, were conducted to analyze and confirm the model fit for Latina/o students and to confirm specific factors predicted to influence Latina/o community college students' STEM vocational choice at transfer. In addition, a secondary model was fitted to White students as a comparison. Finally, a structural equation modeling multigroup analysis was conducted utilizing a third unified model to explore unique differences between Latina/o and White students.