2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Twenty-Four Hours in a Day: A Systematized Review of Community College Engineering Students with Outside Responsibilities

Presented at Student Division (STDT) Technical Session 6: Underserved Student Experiences

This systematized literature review examines students who are in engineering-for-transfer programs at community colleges and have responsibilities outside of class (such as caring for family or working). Many community colleges across the U.S. offer engineering courses which transfer to a four-year university, and 42.7% of engineering students are enrolled at a community college at some point in their education (NSF, 2019). However, year-over-year retention of students in community colleges is low – freshman-to-sophomore rates of retention hover around 55% on average (Monaghan and Sommers, 2022). One reason for low retention is that community college students tend to have more commitments outside of school than their counterparts at four-year universities. Many colleges offer programs intended to increase retention and engagement among these students (such as research, scholarships, and formal mentorship). In this review, I sought to answer the following research questions:
1) What types of programs are offered to support community college students in engineering-for-transfer programs?
2) What aspects of these programs contribute to the success of students who have responsibilities like employment or caretaking of another person?
The systematized literature review resulted in nineteen peer-reviewed journal articles, published after 2010, collected from the Compendex and ERIC databases. These papers were thematically analyzed and results compared. These papers all addressed, to some extent, the experiences and transfer outcomes of working or caretaking community college students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees. Results showed that STEM transfer students were more likely to graduate and transfer when programs provide community engagement, networking opportunities with professionals in the field, financial aid, schedule flexibility, and the information students need to complete their degrees. Engineering programs are increasingly focused on recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, which requires supporting those students with responsibilities outside the classroom. The results of this paper are intended to inform policy makers of programs which can have a positive impact on working or caretaking students at community colleges.

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