earn money for school. Furthermore, as a transfer student, she did not know any professors well enough to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Many thousands of students are like Josie, said Packard—indeed, they are the most typical students in higher education today. The skills of the future workforce will depend to a critical degree on how well community colleges meet the needs of these students.


Community colleges are an often overlooked but essential component in the U.S. STEM education system. About 1,200 community colleges in the United States enroll more than 8 million students annually, including 43 percent of U.S. undergraduates (American Association of Community Colleges, 2011; Mullin and Phillippe, 2011). Community colleges provide not only general education but also many of the essential technical skills on which economic development and innovation are based. Almost onehalf of the Americans who receive bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering attended community college at some point during their education, and almost one-third of recipients of science or engineering master’s degree did so (Tsapogas, 2004). About 40 percent of the nation’s teachers, including teachers of science and mathematics, completed some of their mathematics or science courses at community colleges (Shkodriani, 2004). Community colleges provide professional development programs for teachers, offer alternative teacher certification programs for people who have a degree in another field, and in some states award baccalaureate degrees in teacher education and other disciplines.

Community colleges provide the most diverse student body in the history of the United States with access to higher education. Community colleges serve people of color, women, older students, veterans, international students, first-generation college goers, and working parents. In particular, minorities who are underrepresented in STEM fields are disproportionately enrolled in community colleges. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic students, 44 percent of African American students, 55 percent of Native American students, and 45 percent of Asian-Pacific Islander students attend community colleges (American Association of Community Colleges, 2011).


1The remainder of this chapter is based on the introductory remarks made at the summit by George Boggs, president emeritus, American Association of Community Colleges; Barbara Olds, acting deputy director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, National Science Foundation; Jane Oates, assistant secretary, Employment Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor; and Toby Horn, co-director, Carnegie Academy for Science Education.

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