Low community college transfer rates in Texas hinder progress towards increasing diversity in engineering and computer science

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Chicago—January 2, 2017—A report examining Texas community college transfer students by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) found that very few women and minorities pursue engineering and computer science degrees at Texas universities. The research team’s goal was to assess the progress of women and minorities transferring from community colleges to four-year universities, but the team found that analyzing disaggregated data was difficult.

“As we explored the success of transfer students in engineering and computer sciences, the low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities transferring and completing ECS baccalaureate degrees was an interesting, if disheartening, discovery,” wrote Roberta Rincon, Ph.D., research manager at the Society of Women Engineers of the report “Diversifying STEM: Student Success and Community College Transfer in Engineering and Computer Science in Texas.”

More than 35,000 students started college in 2010/11 and transferred from a two-year community college to a four-year university, but only 500 were women who chose an ECS major. As of the Fall 2015 data cutoff, only 25 percent had graduated with an ECS bachelor’s degree.

“Given that half of women who started college in 2005/06 had earned an ECS bachelor’s degree after transfer by Fall 2015, it may just take more time for community college transfer students to complete,” Rincon said. “This report presents data to show that, despite efforts to improve transfer success and increase diversity in STEM in Texas, we have not seen significant gains in successful transfer and ECS baccalaureate degree completion among students who begin at a two-year college.”

According to the report, community colleges provide a practical postsecondary option for many students interested in earning a higher education credential, but who are in need of a lower-cost, flexible alternative to a traditional four-year university program. Among the almost 18 million undergraduates in the U.S., 25 percent are older than 25 years of age, and approximately 40 percent work at least 30 hours per week.

Using data obtained from the Texas Education Research Center, researchers discovered that despite the fact that more women than men enroll in college each year, less than four percent of female students choose to major in ECS compared to almost 20 percent of men across all two-year and four-year colleges in Texas. The percentage of women among students who declare an ECS major has slightly decreased over time, from 20.2 percent in the 2002/03 FTIC cohort to 17.8 percent in the 2011/12 FTIC cohort.

SWE intends to conduct further study to understand the specific challenges that women on this pathway face.

“What we learn will inform our efforts and other diversity-serving organizations toward better supporting women and other underrepresented groups towards ECS baccalaureate degree completion,” Rincon wrote. She indicated the next phase of research includes a qualitative study of women on the community college pathway, as well as a pilot program aimed at developing inclusive programming to introduce community college women to the collegiate, professional, and corporate networks that SWE offers.

“It is our belief that the support networks, professional development opportunities, and career resources that organizations like SWE provide can make a difference in women’s decisions to persist, graduate, and enter the engineering and computer science workforce,” she said.

To download “Diversifying STEM: Student Success and Community College Transfer in Engineering and Computer Science in Texas,” visit https://research.swe.org/swe-research/.

For more information on SWE, visit swe.org.

About SWE

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. The not-for-profit educational and service organization is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. To ensure SWE members reach their full potential as engineers and leaders, the Society offers unique opportunities to network, provides professional development, shapes public policy and provides recognition for the life-changing contributions and achievements of women engineers. As a champion of diversity, SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in their personal and professional lives. For more information about the Society, please visit www.swe.org  or call 312.596.5223.

SOURCE www.societyofwomenengineers.swe.org

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