Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elaine Walker, Ph.D.


STEM major, AP STEM courses, HSLS


The United States must expand the STEM pipeline in order to meet the growing demand of the STEM workforce and maintain our nation’s prosperity and competitiveness in the global economy. The urgency of this need has been proclaimed by policymakers, business leaders, politicians, and educators. Despite the growing demand for STEM professionals, women and minorities are an underutilized source of intellectual capital that can and should be tapped into to meet the demand. Doing so creates equity across genders and racial/ethnic groups as well as fosters inclusion of more diverse perspectives to enhance STEM innovations. Efforts to expand the number and diversity of those in STEM fields need to start early on in students’ academic careers. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between Advanced Placement (AP) STEM course-taking in high school and selection of college STEM major and to determine whether the relationship differs across racial/ethnic groups and male and female students. This study was designed to help educators and policymakers shape college preparation programs and policies as well as to counsel students during their course selection process in high school.

A two-level logistic regression model with fixed effects was utilized to determine the relationship between AP STEM course-taking and STEM major selection, controlling for all relevant student-level and school-level variables. Missing data was accounted for through multiple imputations. Sensitivity testing was also conducted to examine whether exposure to AP STEM courses versus number of AP STEM courses matters in the model explaining STEM major selection. Lastly, the analysis also included a series of interaction effects tests, examining the variation of gender and racial/ethnic differences in STEM major selection as a function of AP STEM course-taking.

The sample for this study is taken from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 and includes students who were high school freshmen in fall 2009. Data was collected on these students during fall of their freshman year of high school in 2009, during the spring of 11th grade in 2012, and in the spring of 2016, three years after the majority graduated from high school.

Findings indicate that gender, STEM course credits, AP STEM course exposure, math self-efficacy, science self-efficacy, aspiring to a graduate degree or higher, and math SAT score are all significant predictors of STEM major selection. Additionally, the results of the interaction effects test using logistic regression show that the relationship between AP STEM course-taking and STEM major selection varies significantly by gender. More specifically, exposure to AP STEM courses increases the odds of female students selecting a STEM major more significantly than for male students.