3. Creating and sustaining effective partnerships between two-year and four-year institutions. Although individual two-year and four-year institutions in some regions and states have forged effective STEM education partnerships, these partnerships could be much more widely implemented and reflected in state and local policies. In particular, four-year institutions need to have a greater appreciation for the kinds of modern approaches and subject matter in STEM education that are offered at two-year colleges. Partnerships are needed to address such issues as curriculum and other program alignment issues, getting staff and faculty at both institutions on board with student needs and program requirements, and providing course and program articulation policies and practices between two-year and four-year institutions. Partnerships are also essential in developing pathways from a technical degree into a full baccalaureate, especially if some time has passed since the student has completed an associateâ€™s degree. In general, transfer and articulation policies and practices are frequently mentioned barriers to retention in STEM education.
4. Finding the resources to support and sustain STEM education program improvement. There is a universal lack of time and dependable, sustainable resources to support the necessary STEM education collaborations and program improvement initiatives. Furthermore, the weak economy has had a major impact on those efforts. Both two-year and four-year institutions struggle with the high cost of laboratory facilities. In addition, community colleges have difficulty in obtaining and managing external funding.
5. Aligning STEM education with workforce demands and practices. The academic and corporate agendas for STEM education that enable students to advance from two-year to four-year degrees in these fields and the need to offer programs that propel students toward specific careers in STEM are not always well aligned. In general, the dual role of community colleges to educate students for careers and matriculation in four-year programs is a continuing tension for community colleges.