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Classifying STEM Programs in Community Colleges to Develop a State-Level Middle-Skill STEM Workforce Strategy (A CAPSEE Working Paper)

By: Valerie Lundy-Wagner & Eric W. Chan


Calls to increase the number of undergraduate STEM credential recipients have largely failed to differentiate between sub-baccalaureate and four-year credentials at the undergraduate level, which is problematic for workforce development. In this paper, the authors develop a classification system for sub-baccalaureate STEM credentials that is incorporated into an analysis of administrative data from the Virginia Community College System. The authors first describe sub-baccalaureate STEM students and then examine the relationships between STEM matriculation and short-term outcomes for six cohorts. The authors use Mincerian regressions to estimate the earnings associated with completing a STEM credential four years after initial enrollment.

In addition to confirming that students with career-oriented credentials drive short-term STEM earnings benefits, and that full-time students are more likely to complete credentials than their part-time peers, this study also finds relative homogeneity between STEM and non-STEM community college students, suggesting that ability may not be the primary factor inhibiting middle-skill STEM workforce preparation. The authors conclude by discussing the findings and suggesting how these data could be useful in better aligning Virginia’s economic development plans and postsecondary educational offerings.