tc columbia

Evaluating the Potential of Community College Guided Pathways Reforms to Increase Undergraduate STEM Student Success

October 2019–September 2022

Nearly two million students enroll for the first time in community colleges each year, but relatively few—and far too few underrepresented students—progress to advanced STEM coursework and persist to complete an associate degree in STEM or transfer to a STEM bachelor’s program.

This project will study whether whole-college guided pathways reforms can improve STEM outcomes for underrepresented students and students generally. CCRC research suggests that the barriers to community college student success in STEM are institutional and systemic. Community colleges are not organized in ways that expose entering students to STEM careers, help them enroll in the right STEM courses, or align students’ coursework and learning experiences with the demands of further education and careers in STEM-related fields.

Hundreds of community colleges nationally are implementing GP reforms to address fundamental barriers to student access to and success in STEM. This project is designed to meet the growing demand from this national reform movement for evidence of the effects of these reforms. It will also seek to provide practical guidance on how to implement and measure these reforms in ways that benefit all students, especially those from underrepresented groups. In partnership with higher education agencies in Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington, CCRC will identify metrics practitioners can use to evaluate the effects of guided pathways reforms on STEM programs and produce a practitioner guide on how community colleges can improve access to and completion of STEM programs.

This three-year project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program through grant number 1915191.