Assistant Professor Rachel Baker and three local community colleges have been awarded a five-year $2.5 million NSF grant to study how cross-enrollment can improve the transition of community college students into university STEM programs. The community college partners are Irvine Valley College, Saddleback College, and Orange Coast College.
Research Title: Promoting Cross-Enrollment to Bridge the 2- to 4-Year College Transfer Gap for Underrepresented Students
This project aims to diversify the pool of STEM graduates with bachelor’s degrees by increasing student transfer rates from community colleges to four-year institutions through cross-enrollment in STEM courses. A cross-enrollment program facilitates enrollment in a course at a four-year college while a student is enrolled at a community college. These programs provide low-cost opportunities for students to become acquainted with a four-year institution's campus and to experience courses at that school. This project seeks to increase the number of students participating in cross-enrollment in STEM courses with a particular emphasis on increasing cross-enrollment for racial and ethnic minorities. Participating in cross-enrollment programs could enhance a student’s confidence in his/her ability to complete STEM courses and could thus increase transfer rates into STEM bachelor's degrees programs for community college students. Through a collaboration between the University of California, Irvine and three community college partners, Irvine Valley College, Orange Coast College, and Saddleback College, the project aims to identify the effect of participating in cross-enrollment on a student's probability of transferring to a four-year institution and to identify and test methods for improving cross-enrollment programs. Increasing transfer rates through cross-enrollment with community colleges that have diverse student populations can diversify the pool of STEM graduates at four-year colleges.
This project will examine community college students' perceptions of the benefits of and barriers to cross-enrollment in STEM courses. Based on findings from focus groups and surveys with community college students, administrators, and STEM faculty, the study team will design and implement interventions to increase the uptake of cross-enrollment in STEM courses. This study aims to rigorously examine the effects of cross-enrollment on community college students' probability of transferring to a four-year college and to provide evidence on how to improve the cross-enrollment experience for students in STEM programs. Using random assignment and by following students for up to three years, the team will be able to examine if these interventions reduce barriers to cross-enrollment in STEM courses and to study the effects of cross-enrollment on eventual transfer to a STEM major at a four-year college. The partnership between one four-year college and three area community colleges could be a model for other institutions seeking to expand and diversify the pathway in STEM programs.