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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers
would be beneficial. If these issues can be resolved, students are likely to have a higher comfort level about their chances of transferring successfully and more confidence in quality assurances.
The general public, as well as many community college students and their parents, are not aware of the community college transfer mission. Students who do not realize they can obtain a four-year engineering degree through the community college pathway tend to set their sights too low. In addition, a lack of understanding of what engineers do, or worse, a negative image of engineers and the engineering profession, also contribute to students’ decisions to end their secondary education with a certificate or A.S. degree or to elect another major if they plan to transfer to a four-year institution. Engineering professional societies and other key stakeholders must work together to generate positive, compelling messages about the opportunities for engineers to improve the quality of life and sustainability, domestically and globally.
To increase public awareness of the community college mission, state and national policy makers must address the issue of community college capacity. In California, for example, students were reported being turned away from community colleges due to lack of capacity. Increasing capacity will require increased funding for community colleges, as well as for community college and transfer students.
Accessible, reliable data about student and institutional outcomes would make it possible to prioritize and address many of the problems outlined in this report. Currently, however, not enough data are available on community college student educational pathways, and institutions represented at the workshop reported that they do not have the funds to collect and analyze data on students. As community colleges become more important in higher education in the United States, data will be necessary to evaluate both student and institutional outcomes and to answer the questions raised in this report and elsewhere about the relationship between articulation agreements and recruitment, retention, and persistence to the B.S. degree of community college transfer students.
The majority of workshop participants reported that community college transfer students perform as well academically and have comparable retention rates to those of students who began as freshmen in four-year engineering programs. However, there is little systematic data to support this claim. Many workshop participants from four-year programs noted that community college students’ performance often falters temporarily following transfer, but improves as students regain their confidence and become acclimated to their new environments. Information on the effectiveness of programs/approaches to reducing the culture shock would be helpful.