Academic journal article
By Blair, Benjamin F.; Millea, Meghan; Hammer, Joshua
Journal of Engineering Education , Vol. 93, No. 4
Several engineering programs around the country either require or encourage a cooperative education experience as part of their curriculum. In this paper, we examine the effects of cooperative education on grade point average, length of time in school, and starting salary. Statistical analyses show that cooperative education programs have significant effects on all three dimensions. These results are useful not only to students deciding whether to participate in cooperative education programs, but also to administrators in determining the role of cooperative education in the engineering curriculum.
Keywords: cooperative education, regression analysis
Cooperative education began as an experiential education program for engineering students at the University of Cincinnati in 1906. Cooperative education still remains a key component of the many of engineering programs nationwide, a required component in some cases. Cooperative education provides opportunities for students to engage in experiential education, integrating course work with work experience.
Several studies have documented the value of cooperative education in terms of academic and labor market outcomes. Both Gardner, Nixon and Motschenbacker  and Lindenmeyer  found engineering majors who participated in cooperative education (coop) earned higher cumulative grade point averages (GPA) than non-coop engineering majors. Other studies have examined the effectiveness of cooperative education by examining labor market outcomes. For example, engineering students with cooperative education experience earned more than their engineering cohorts who did not participate in cooperative education. The quantity of cooperative education was also found to be positively correlated with salary . Wessels and Pumphrey  found that cooperative education decreased job search time and positively influenced the likelihood of promotion and advancement once employed.
In the research presented here, we examine three dimensions of the coop experience. Specifically, we measure the effect that cooperative education has on the GPA, starting salary, and time until graduation of engineering students who participated in cooperative education relative to their peers who did not. Using regression analysis we are able to isolate the effect of cooperative education while, at the same time, controlling for other factors that might be influencing the outcomes.
This study uses data for the engineering majors who graduated from Mississippi State University (MSU) between the Fall 2000 and Spring 2002 semesters. Student records from the MSU Registrar's Office were matched with exit survey data collected by MSU's Office of Career Services. All local and national regulations regarding informed consent for human subjects were followed. MSU is a representative land-grant public university with approximately 16,000 students. The engineering sample included 773 graduates, who comprised 14 percent of the 5,506 graduating students. Table 1 summarizes demographic characteristics of engineering graduates and defines the variables used in this study. Only 18 percent of the engineering graduates were female and 8 percent were black. Forty-one percent of the students located in Mississippi upon graduation. Nearly fifty percent of the engineering students completed the cooperative education program; only 9 percent of the majors completed less than the requisite three semesters of coop. Engineering majors graduated with an average GPA of 3.16 and took 63.53 months to complete their degrees, 5.3 years. On average, they received starting salaries of $ 47,158.
In Table 2 we compare the mean outcomes of engineering majors with coop experience to those without. Coop engineers earned an average GPA of 3.24, which was higher than the average GPA of the non-coop engineers by 0.20 points. Coop students took approximately 4.8 months longer to graduate, a total of 5. …