Infographic: Latest Research on Community College Student Success in Engineering

SWE’s latest research on community college women in engineering and technology focuses on understanding the barriers and successes of students who begin their studies at a community college.

Diversifying STEM: Increasing Women’s Persistence on the Transfer Pathway in Engineering and Computer Science is SWE’s second study on community college student success. This research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE). The recommendations are based on the findings from a mixed-methods study of over 400 students at three different community colleges in Texas.

Building on the findings from SWE’s 2017 study, which found that women who begin studying engineering or computer science at a community college change out of those majors at much higher rates than their men, SWE identified five recommendations to help improve women’s persistence in these majors:

  • Improve advising for transfer students. A lack of information is not the problem. Rather, students need to be advised by someone who can help them navigate through the information and help them solidify their transfer plan.
  • Provide more financial support. Financial challenges lead many students to delay their move to a four-year university. The impact of working while taking classes also makes it difficult to enroll full-time and make time for student engagement activities.
  • Provide more information about career pathways. Over half of the students in this study expressed limited or no knowledge about the engineering profession prior to entering college. Women also reported learning less about engineering as a profession during their time at community college than men.
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships, networking, and mentorship. Students would benefit from more involvement in extracurricular activities academically, socially, and professionally. Mentorship offers an important source of guidance and encouragement.
  • Focus on boosting confidence. Decreased confidence in math and science can contribute to persistence in STEM. Interventions intended to counteract stereotypes and increase
    confidence can have a measurable impact on persistence.

SWE has made it a strategic objective to better support women on the transfer pathway towards an engineering and technology career. With over 40% of undergraduates in the U.S. attending public two-year colleges and the diversity of the community college student population, the National Academy of Engineering has highlighted the importance of community colleges in broadening participation in engineering. This research will help inform the efforts of SWE and other organizations interested in diversifying STEM as we develop programs and services for students on various educational pathways.

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