Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

An ROI Comparison of Initiatives Designed to Attract Diverse Students to Technology Careers

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

An ROI Comparison of Initiatives Designed to Attract Diverse Students to Technology Careers

Article excerpt


K-12 educators, higher education, government institutions, and business and industry partners have accomplished much in the pursuit to attract diverse populations to study STEM-related disciplines (Brookshire et al., 2008; McCullough 2002). However, a critical shortage of scientists and engineers in the U.S. remains. The Executive Office of the President and the National Science Foundation suggest tapping into underrepresented populations, specifically minorities and women, to fill the void (National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2013; Olson and Riordan, 2012) given the disparity that exists between the ratios of diverse populations in our society and the number of diverse persons with high-level information technology related careers. The National Science Foundation reports that in 2012, underrepresented men and women earned 18.8% of undergraduate degrees awarded in science and engineering (National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2015). Diverse populations are less likely to have access and exposure to information technology resources during their K-12 education (Chisholm, Carey, and Hernandez, 2002) and are, therefore, less likely to be interested in acquiring information technology education and in pursuing information technology careers.

Previous efforts to increase diverse students' interest in information technologies and STEM have included or were followed by studies to determine the effectiveness of particular strategies and approaches (Craig, 2014; Miliszewska and Moore, 2010; Mouza, 2008). Assessing the effectiveness of a program's ability to increase a student's desire to study computing technologies and enroll in and complete undergraduate computing technology degree programs is essential given that pilot funding for these programs is temporary. Stewards of programs to produce more computing technology graduates are obliged to measure, report on, and update their programs to ensure the programs produce cost-effective outcomes.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reports that there is an increased interest in "impact investing." Specifically, when making socially responsible investments, companies and government agencies seek a Pay for Success (PFS) agreement to continue funding (Ragin and Palandjian, 2013). PFS backers pay service providers based upon measurable predefined prevention or intervention outcomes. Key aspects of PFS agreements include predefined investments (similar to grants) and the requirement that desired outcomes must be measurable.

Evidence based methods such as ROI are increasingly being used to document achievements in sponsored prevention and intervention programs (Kuklinski, 2015). We propose adopting ROI methodologies to examine the cost-effectiveness of interventions designed to increase interest in STEM careers. For purposes of this paper, we define the Investment component of ROI to include not only the "in dollars" quantifiable costs, but also the unquantifiable investments, such as volunteer efforts and in-kind donations. By focusing on ROI, we hope to simultaneously promote and improve the use of investment resources to increase the number of students receiving effective (positive ROI) intervention experiences. We hope to provide decision makers with justification for investing new financial resources needed to best support intervention efforts.

This paper continues with a review and summary of existing programs focused on encouraging diverse students to pursue STEM careers and discuss how these programs report on outcomes and costs. Next, we present our comparison model where two similar programs were conducted and where both costs and outcomes were tracked for the purpose of comparing ROI. We end with a discussion of our findings and offer suggestions to those offering intervention programs on ways to better track the costs and outcomes of their programs so that they can report results using the ROI framework to be able to better distinguish and recognize the most effective programs. …

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