2. Recruitment is more effective when students can see the feasibility and relevance of completing a four-year STEM degree. States should expand dual-enrollment programs and make recommendations for college-preparatory math sequences; local policies should lift restrictions so college classes can count for both college and high school requirements. Governmental incentives should be directed toward industry partners who provide STEM-specific internships. Additionally, federal grants can incentivize the redesign of STEM courses at the introductory level.

3. Several mentoring initiatives improve student retention, including developmental bridge programs, science scholar programs, peer-led supplemental instruction, and undergraduate research experiences. Further research is needed into the design principles that make mentoring initiatives more effective and scalable. Funding agencies should require student mentoring plans in all relevant grant proposals, similar to the National Science Foundation’s requirements for postdoctoral researchers. Grant programs should target innovations such as part-time summer research experiences for nontraditional students and future community college faculty mentoring programs. State higher education offices should include mentoring and retention plans as criteria for approving academic programs. Beyond formal programs, institutions need to expand informal mentoring strategies across their campuses.

In sum, efforts to recruit and retain community college students pursuing STEM transfer pathways should be coordinated, well designed, and sustained. Changes in educational policies and grant requirements can help to strengthen the impact of these investments. By helping institutional leaders in four-year institutions to recognize the benefits of collaborating with and learning from community colleges, we can further strengthen these critical partnerships.


This paper focuses on effective outreach, recruitment, and mentoring strategies that can increase the number and diversity of students who use community college pathways to earn four-year degrees1 in STEM. Many occupations in STEM fields now require a four-year degree; individuals who earn a bachelor’s degree on average earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more during their careers and have access to a broader range of

1The importance of STEM associate’s and certificate programs is recognized; however, these programs are not the focus of this paper.

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