May 13, 2013
Studies show that women are more likely than men to go to college, and often perform better once there. Yet despite women's educational gains, a new report suggests that colleges are not doing enough for them -- at least not at the community college level.
The new report, "Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success," was published last week by the American Association of University Women. Researchers note that females account for the majority of U.S. community college students, with more women attending community colleges than private or public four-year universities, but their completion rates are seen as poor.
"Nearly half of women entering community colleges do not earn a certificate, degree, or transfer to a four-year college long after they first enrolled," report co-author and AAUW senior researcher Dr. Andresse St. Rose said in a press conference, as reported by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. "The low success rate of women at community colleges deserves our attention."
One way the AAUW report notes community colleges can better support women -- and the economy at large -- is by focusing on making education more accessible to mothers with on-campus child care services. According to the report, fewer than half of all community colleges offer these services, and lack of child care remains one of the primary reasons women drop out of school. AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman suggests that the benefits of supporting mothers through education are far-reaching.
"Studies have shown that a mother's education level is an important factor in the educational success and health of her children and that supporting mothers' educational achievement ultimately benefits our communities," Hallman wrote in an editorial she penned for The Huffington Post.
The AAUW advises community colleges to assess student demand for child care at their campuses to determine whether it is being met. If not, it urges schools to figure out how to best meet students' needs. In her column, Hall suggests that one of the major barriers community colleges face in regards to the provision of child care services is inadequate funding: Congressional funding for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program -- the primary source of federal funding for campus-based child care -- has declined by about 36 percent since 2001. Nonetheless, the AAUW recommends that campuses continue to apply for those CCAMPIS grants.
Another way the AAUW says community colleges can better support women is by actively recruiting them for higher-paying fields, especially within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. St. Rose told Diverse: Issues in Higher Education that the report addressed STEM education because too few women pursue degrees in what are considered to be "some of the fastest growing and highest-paying career fields." "We look at what are the barriers women face entering those fields at community colleges and what schools can do to improve upon [their] participation in those areas," she said.
According to the report, community colleges should actively recruit women for STEM programs and other nontraditional fields, and should develop marketing materials that "demystify" what it says are often "unfamiliar fields for women students."
The full report and an accompanying executive summary are available on the AAUW website.
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"AAUW Urges Action on Child Care, Women's STEM Participation at Community Colleges," diverseeducation.com, May 9, 2013, Ronald Roach
"For Mother's Day, Support Moms at Community College," huffingtonpost.com, May 9, 2013, Linda Hallman
"Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success," aauw.org, May 9, 2013, Andresse St. Rose