Increasing Opportunities for Low-Income Women and Student Parents in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Community Colleges

Drawing on a literature and program review, analysis of publicly available data, and consultations with experts in the field, this report examines opportunities for women and student parents to pursue and succeed in STEM fields at community colleges.

Cynthia B. Costello, Ph.D.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Student Parent Success Initiative
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This report analyzes trends in women’s representation in Science, Technology Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields of study at community colleges, as well as promising institutional and broader policy initiatives for improving recruitment, retention, and completion rates for women students in general and student parents in particular. This report is a product of IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative, a multifaceted project designed to share knowledge, raise awareness, and improve public policies to support positive outcomes for low-income student parents seeking higher education.

What the experts say

This resource is a very strong example of linking research to practice. It can be very useful to multiple stakeholder groups. It presents the problem (women are underrepresented in STEM fields), reviews the existing literature surrounding the problem, offers possible solutions, and then highlights promising practices in the field of the practices in action.  The authors have done a good job citing the research on basic skills and wrap-around services need to address needs of low-income, single parents in STEM programs.  Several criteria were used to select the highlighted programs:

  • Programs that target women, or include a significant number of women.
  • Programs that focus on different levels of STEM education—developmental education, occupational certificates, associate’s degrees, and preparation for transfer to four-year institutions.
  • Programs with a range of components to supporting women’s success, including approaches benefiting low-income women and student parents.
  • Programs from different regions of the country.
  • Programs with some evaluation and outcome data, or evidence of success.
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