S03: The 2- to 4-Year College Transition

Chair: Kelly Mack—Project Kaleidoscope/ST

Factors Influencing the Persistence of Students Enrolled in S.T.E.M. Programs at Historically Black Community Colleges

Latitia D. McCane—Bishop State Community College

The majority of the research on African American students in STEM has focused on four- year institutions, even though they comprised 15% of the enrollees at two-year colleges in fall 2009, compared with 14% at four-year colleges (Snyder & Dillow, 2010). Sadly, this demonstrates that too little is understood regarding the role community colleges play in the production of STEM graduates, particularly African Americans.  More tragically, is the fact that little or no quality research exists on Historically Black Two-Year Colleges’ production of STEM graduates, although, research shows the largest portion of STEM degrees earned by African Americans is awarded by four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), that which has been produced tends to focus on STEM persistence at four-year HBCUs.

This presentation will discuss findings on how African American STEM students’ academic and social integration on campus; interaction with other STEM students and faculty; influence their persistence in STEM at two-year Historically Black Community Colleges.  The study sought to understand the experiences of African American with an associate degree through the eyes of those who completed their first year in a STEM at two-year historically black community colleges and how their lived experience might influence the academic success of future STEM participants.  Utilizing Tinto’s theoretical model of persistence, the study examined the experiences students’ encountered through participation in STEM after the completion of their first year.  The study was conducted to achieve the following two goals: (a) to determine what academic and social integration looks like for African American students in STEM at historically black colleges.  (b) to assess how interactions with faculty and peers positively impact the African-American student experience in STEM pathways.

To achieve these two goals, this study examined the particular experience of African American students enrolled in STEM pathways across 5 two-year HBCUs in Alabama.  The method of inquiry was a phenomenological approach designed to elicit a clear and complete understanding of how African American students attending historically black two-year colleges experience STEM. The intent of the study is to assist community colleges and universities in developing stronger recruitment and retention strategies that may yield positive results in improving African American persistence in STEM.

This study was guided by the following research questions:

  1. What kind of college experiences did students acquire as a result of having participated in STEM courses?
  2. How did academic integration influence persistence toward degree completion?
  3. In what ways did social integration influence persistence toward degree completion?
  4. What was the influence of faculty mentoring on adaptation to the academic environment of the college?
  5. How did interacting with other students influence student persistence toward degree completion in STEM pathways?

Tinto’s (1975) model of persistence was the theoretical framework applied to this phenomenological study to document the experiences, perspectives, and recommendations of African American students who were currently enrolled in STEM pathways at historically black community colleges in Alabama.  Many studies on student persistence have utilized Tinto’s theory because social integration, academic integration, student interaction, and faculty interaction are strong indicators of student success.  This study proved that Community Colleges have a traditional age talent pool in STEM that is college ready.  Students in this study were traditional age college students and the results of the findings indicated that they were academically and socially integrated into their college environment. Participants credit their institution, faculty, peers, and themselves working collaboratively to achieve their educational goals.  All students in this study will earn their two-year degree and transfer to a four-year college or university in STEM.

URM Students are the Majority in a Hybrid Online B.S. Degree Program from a Research-intensive University

Jennifer C. Drew and Eric W. Triplett—both of University of Florida

The Microbiology and Cell Science Department in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida has developed an innovative model of a 2+2 degree program that increases participation of underrepresented minority students in a STEM degree programs. Although many two-year students have a desire to pursue a B.S. degree, due to a myriad of factors, these students to not complete the 2-year to 4-year transition, and this transfer gap is wider for URM students. Many universities in the United States, particularly research-intensive land-grant universities, are located in rural regions that are distantly located from their respective states’ highly populated urban centers. This geographical and cultural distance reduces participation of otherwise highly qualified and diverse students in the STEM degree pipeline. In response to these challenges, we developed a new model of a 2+2 program that uses distance education as the vehicle to bring a university’s life sciences curriculum to students rather than the oft-tried model of a university attempting to recruit URM students to its location. In this paradigm, community college graduates transfer into the Microbiology and Cell Science (MCS) program as distance education students to complete their Bachelor of Science degree. The program was established in 2011 and is the first of its kind in a STEM field, and as such serves as a model for other universities seeking to broaden the reach of their STEM programs.

The program was established in close collaboration with the 2-year institution Miami Dade College – North Campus. This strategic partnership with a large minority-serving institution allowed us to integrate one of our primary objectives from the very start: increasing URM participation in the STEM pipeline. The experience of the students in the Distance Education Microbiology and Cell Science program (DE MCS) is very similar to the on-campus students’ experiences in that both groups of students take the same departmental courses taught by the same instructors, take required laboratory courses in a face-to-face format, take only proctored exams, and have the same availability to instructors. To test the hypothesis that this hybrid online approach can increase participation and diversity in the STEM pipeline, the outcomes of the DE MCS were assessed and compared to the on-campus MCS program after three full academic years. The enrollment of DE MCS majors has climbed steadily each year from the initial cohort of 11 students to a current enrollment of 79 DE MCS majors, and has contributed to an overall increase in the number of Microbiology and Cell Science majors. As of the Fall 2014 semester, over half (51%) of the DE MCS students are from underrepresented minority backgrounds. Statistical analysis of the data indicate that this level of URM participation is significantly higher than the URM participation levels in corresponding on-campus cohorts, which vary from 21-33% (p values < 0.05). The DE MCS program has comparable graduation and retention rates as their corresponding on-campus programs. Academically, the DE MCS students perform as well as, or better than their on-campus cohorts with a mean graduation GPA of 3.50. Overall, these data indicate a hybrid online 2+2 approach is successful in increasing URM participation and strengthening the STEM pipeline. The data represents an update on the results in press in the journal PLOS ONE.

Don't forget to join us in San Antonio for the 2017 UI Conference!

Our 9th Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers will be held at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, in downtown San Antonio.