high school requirement, which would allow students with lower grade point averages to take advantage of dual-enrollment classes.

Packard also called attention to the deterrent posed by developmental mathematics, which is discussed in the next chapter. Experiential programs and dual-enrollment classes that target academic mathematics requirements could recruit students into STEM fields and give them a realistic chance of persisting.


Research on mentoring is robust, sophisticated, and rigorous, Packard noted. Most of the newer studies are comparative, longitudinal, or control for self-selection issues. However, more research is needed on how to create more effective mentoring programs and bring effective mentoring programs to scale (references are provided in Appendix B).

Packard also recommended that grants require undergraduate mentoring plans. NSF has such a requirement for postdoctoral researchers, and there is no reason why this provision could not be extended to undergraduate students, she said.

Finally, she said, informal mentoring and advising need to be infused by faculty into all courses. Mentoring cannot be done through supplemental programs alone.


The American Institutes for Research has estimated that more than $4 billion in grants and state allocations are lost when new, full-time community college students do not return for a second year of study (Schneider, 2011). According to the report in which this estimate appeared, said Packard, “The only thing more expensive than fixing retention in community college is not fixing it.”

Packard was part of the first generation in her family to complete a four-year degree. A summer research experience motivated her to get a PhD, which led to research support from NSF and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. “Every single day I am grateful for the professor mentor who got me into a carpool and was flexible enough so that I could work my other two jobs,” she said. Yet the challenges that she faced pale in comparison to those faced by many students who are trying to navigate the community college transfer pathway. “Students are not just data sources to me,” she said. “I am deeply troubled by the struggles that students face when trying to navigate these pathways to four-year STEM degrees.”

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