Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Introductory Geosciences at the Two-Year College: Factors That Influence Student Transfer Intent with Geoscience Degree Aspirations

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Introductory Geosciences at the Two-Year College: Factors That Influence Student Transfer Intent with Geoscience Degree Aspirations

Article excerpt

Introduction

Two-year colleges (2YCs) play an important role in postsecondary education in the United States, with nearly half of undergraduate college students enrolled in 2YCs and 45% of first-time freshman using 2YCs as an entry point to a four-year degree (American Association of Community Colleges [AACC], 2016). Two-year colleges also serve a critical role in facilitating student access to education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields (Boggs, 2010; Hagedorn & Purnamasari, 2012; Packard, Gagnon, & Senas, 2012; Starobin & Lanaan, 2010; Tsapogas, 2004). However, the geosciences lag far behind the other sciences in baccalaureate and graduate degree completion rates of students transferring from 2YCs, particularly for individuals from underrepresented populations (Wilson, 2014). Recognition of this disparity has driven conversations to strengthen the pipeline of geoscience students beginning at 2YCs, particularly for minority and women transfer students (Mosher et al., 2014), and to serve as an intervention point to broaden participation in the geoscience workforce (Mosher et al., 2014; Wilson, 2014; Wolfe, van der Hoeven Kraft, & Wilson, 2015). If the goal is to expand the number of geoscience graduates and bolster participation of underrepresented groups in the geoscience workforce, it is critical to identify factors at the 2YC that predict student intent to transfer to a four-year college (4YC) or university with geoscience degree pursuit.

Strengthening the pipeline for students pursuing degrees who begin at a 2YC is a complicated and multifaceted process. The transfer pathway for 2YC students can be a complex and challenging adjustment, including navigating new academic expectations and institutional cultures (Townsend, 2008). An additional hurdle is that students who use a 2YC as their entry point into higher education are more likely to be underprepared academically. At least two-thirds of 2YC students test into developmental (also known as remedial, compensatory, preparatory, or basic skills studies) courses, particularly in mathematics, reading, and writing (Bailey, 2009; Monaghan & Attewell, 2014). However, a number of pretransfer factors, including the academic engagement experiences of students at the 2YC, can contribute to successful transition from a 2YC to a 4YC (Laanan, Starobin, & Eggleston, 2010). A better understanding of how academic engagement experiences may contribute to increased 2YC student interested in geoscience degrees and strengthening their intent to transfer from 2YCs to 4YCs is critical in developing effective policies and support mechanisms for students to successfully navigate the transfer pathway (Mosher et al., 2014).

Two-year college student transfer

Two-year colleges serve as an access point for students to higher education through their open access admission policies, location, and lower tuition costs (Hoachlander, Sikora, & Horn, 2003; Monaghan & Attewell, 2014). The student populations of 2YCs are often more demographically diverse than of 4YCs as women, minority students, and students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely use 2YCs as their entry point to higher education (AACC, 2016; Reyes, 2011). Nationally, 2YCs enroll 62% of Native American, 57% of Hispanic, 52% of Black, and 43% Asian/Pacific Islander undergraduate students (AACC, 2016). More importantly, the transfer function of 2YCs makes it possible for many students, particularly nontraditional and underrepresented populations, to access higher education and continue pursuing their degree at a 4YC (Starobin & Laanan, 2010). Commonly, this transition is either "horizontal" between institutions at the same level (e.g., between 4YCs) or "vertical," such as upward transfer from a 2YC to a 4YC (McCormick, 1997). Although there is a large variation in the types of 2YC student transfer, this study focused on the vertical transfer intent of 2YC students with geoscience degree pursuit. …

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