Nearly 10 percent of students who enrolled in a four-year STEM college program ended up “reverse transferring” to a community college, according to a recent survey. And more than 8 percent of STEM students were enrolled in both a four-year and two-year college.

These statistics underscore the important role that community colleges play in the education of STEM students from four-year schools. In addition to the reverse transfer of students and the concurrent enrollment of students at two- and four-year institutions, a third pathway in STEM education is for students who have completed bachelor’s degree to take courses at a two-year college.

As part of the National Academies, this consensus study report found that STEM students who reverse transfer to a community college are less likely to continue in a STEM pathway or in college at all. The report, conducted by the Rutgers Education & Employment Research Center (EERC), suggests that understanding the different functions of community colleges for four-year STEM students could enable colleges to address the problems that lead some students to drop out, while facilitating the complementary role of two-year colleges for students who persist in a STEM field.

Read our papers on STEM Pathways: 

 Hidden STEM Producers: Community Colleges’ Multiple Contributions to STEM Education and Workforce Development by Michelle Van Noy and Matthew Zeidenberg. 

Crossing the Boundaries: STEM Students in Four-Year and Community Colleges by Michelle Van Noy and Hal Salzman.