would be postdoctoral teaching fellowships that are geared specifically toward community colleges. Such options would allow more students to explore that option and encourage mentors to talk about that route.
Support from policy makers and foundations is important, but the goals of improving educational attainment, particularly in STEM fields, will be met only if educators take responsibility for improving studentsâ€™ success, said Boggs. College and university faculty and administrators need to work together to improve completion rates and to facilitate the transfer of students from community colleges into upper division coursework.
Oates sounded a rare positive note regarding funding when she pointed out that the number of students with Pell grants who are in community colleges has gone up by more than 50 percent since 2009. She also said that more scholarship money is becoming available for students in both two-year and four-year institutions. The Obama administration has called for far more students to go to college and earn STEM degrees to help the economy grow. Revitalizing STEM education is not enough, Oates said. The challenge, she said, “is to embed STEM education as fundamental to Americaâ€™s future.”
Community colleges tend to have particularly close relationships with businesses and industries, for several reasons. Many offer career and technical education for occupations in nearby communities. In addition, employment is essential for many community college students. As Becky Packard pointed out, some students work full time and take one course at a time, though it may take them many years to earn a degree. Workplace tuition reimbursement programs can be particularly attractive options for such students.
Dowd suggested several other valuable roles that businesses could play. One is to fund transfer scholarships, which could raise the prestige of transfer students. Another would be to help establish and support community-based individual development accounts in which businesses would match money set aside for education. Celeste Carter from the National Science Foundation mentioned the possibility of businesses posing problems to groups of students that they could solve collaboratively. Packard added that linking scholarships with work-based internships could spur career development for students, rather than having jobs conflict with education.
Elaine Johnson from Bio-Link cited the importance of internships in steering students into STEM careers. Internships, particularly if they provide mentors and role models for students, can have a profound influ