Report Urges More Help for Women at Community Colleges
May 10, 2013

A new report from the American Association of University Women makes several recommendations for furthering women’s success in community colleges, a goal the report calls “too often overlooked.”  Based on their research, authors Andresse St. Rose and Catherine Hill make two primary recommendations: “Support student parents” and “Increase the number of women in nontraditional fields, including STEM.”

"While we celebrate the accessibility that community colleges provide women … access alone is not enough," St. Rose said in a conference call Thursday.

According to the report, women make up 57 percent of the students who attend community colleges; many of these women are financially limited and/or academically underprepared, and about 25 percent have children. As such, the report recommends increases in on-campus child care at community colleges, which is offered at fewer than half of such institutions.

The report also singles out the Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a program for low-income parents offered at all of Arkansas' community colleges, for praise. CPI offers assistance to low-income parents through a combination of tutoring, academic advising and career services. "More schools and states need to follow this example," St. Rose said during the call.

Associate Degrees Conferred by Community Colleges, by Gender, 2009–2010

Major Women Men
Health professions and related programs 84,526 15,778
Education 11,577 2,877
Computer and information sciences 3,359 10,860
Engineering technologies 2,628 15,629
Personal and culinary services 2,500 1,560
Mechanic and repair technologies/technicians 785 11,332
Mathematics and statistics 317 690
Engineering 282 1,902
Construction trades 210 3,073

Source: AAUW analysis of U.S. Department of Education, 2010.

St. Rose and Hill also call for expanded information and support for women seeking degrees in STEM fields; women enrolled in community colleges, they say, currently tend toward traditionally female fields such as nursing, education and cosmetology, and are therefore underrepresented in STEM-related areas (see table). Their recommendations on this include more active recruitment, ensuring that academic advising programs are not reinforcing gender stereotypes and bolstering the gender equity provisions found in the Perkins Act, which provides federal support for technical education.

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