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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers
Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and Transfer Assembly Project.
For the purposes of this study, NSF data on transfers are especially relevant because they focus on science and engineering. Information from graduate students regarding their experiences in community colleges is collected in the NSF National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG). “The survey questionnaire asks graduates who have received bachelor’s or master’s degrees in science or engineering fields whether they have ever attended a community college. The data collected do not distinguish between graduates who attended community college by taking one course and those who were enrolled full time (Tsapogas, 2004).” Because the survey also includes demographic questions, the findings can be disaggregated by marital status, race/ethnicity, age, and parents’ education. In addition, some graduates were asked to give their reasons for attending community colleges. “Many S&E [science and engineering] graduates used community colleges for reasons other than to earn an associate’s degree. In the 1999 survey cycle, 1997 and 1998 S&E graduates were asked why they decided to attend a community college. This question was not asked in the 2001 survey cycle” (Tsapogas, 2004).
Other sources of national-level data sources are useful for putting transfers to context but do not focus directly on engineering. NCES, for example, conducts a variety of surveys, including multiple surveys on postsecondary education, the most relevant of which is the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study. Other surveys that include questions about attendance at community colleges are the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey; National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), which focuses on financing a college education; National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS-72); High School and Beyond (HS&B); and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). Analyses of these datasets for insights into the role of community colleges revealed the findings described below.
BPS includes several questions specifically about transfers. According to the NCES Web site (2004):
[BPS] is designed specifically to collect data related to persistence in and completion of postsecondary education programs; relationships between work and education efforts; and the effect of postsecondary education on the lives of individuals. The current BPS Longitudinal Study is made up of people who first entered postsecondary education in the 1995–1996 academic year. These students were part of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). NPSAS includes everyone in postsecondary education, regardless of age or level of postsecondary enrollment. For BPS, students included in NPSAS who had just started their postsec-