S-STEM Logo Color | on Low-Income STEM Student Decision-Making and Pathways

Our Research


This institutional survey gathers information on the practices S-STEM grantee institutions use to create pathways for students to persist in completing their STEM education and beginning careers. The survey includes questions about researchers’ activities and interests, grantees’ goals and core S-STEM strategies (including intensity, parameters for student involvement, perceptions of effectiveness in supporting student pathways, availability of other college supports, and lessons learned from S-STEM programs), existing research and resources, and grantees’ interests in the CCSN and research needs.


Building on an earlier survey of student pathways, this student survey asks how individual students make decisions to persist through their STEM education and plan for a career. Researchers hope to learn more about the unique needs of low-income STEM students, STEM pathways to credentials and careers, students’ personal and academic interests, potential or experienced barriers to success in STEM, and demographic and other personal characteristics that could influence decision-making. Stay tuned for a working paper and related issue brief that will convey findings from these surveys more broadly.


The systematic review will identify and synthesize existing research about S-STEM programs to illuminate what is already known—and what merits further research—about how S-STEM creates completion and career pathways, as well as how students make decisions in navigating those pathways. This work will also assess the information community colleges gather to analyze on the effectiveness of S-STEM programs for students, with variations related to income, race, gender, and other factors. These reviews further consider evidence on which institutional factors impact student decision-making.


In close partnership with S-STEM grantees, CCSN will conduct onsite case studies at Polk State College (Florida), Holyoke Community College (Massachusetts), and Everett Community College (Washington State). The three sites offer variation in geography, STEM fields, stage of grant implementation, type of S-STEM evidence-based strategies, and institutional research expertise. Together, the studies will generate both broad and deep evidence-based insights for a wide range of current and future S-STEM grantees. The methods and tools used in these initial case studies will be refined for use in subsequent CCSN activities, providing tangible examples of instruments that can be modified and replicated in subsequent research partnerships.



Following initial data collection, the CCSN will invite various colleges to partner on research-to-practice projects that generate ways to improve STEM pathways for low-income community college students, based oncase study findings. Results of these collaboratives will fuel further improvement of STEM student success pathways.


Community College Research Fellowships

To build capacity within the S-STEM research community, CCSN will recruit four early career researchers for a 16-month fellowship. Fellows will work directly with practitioners to conduct extend and improve the CCSN’s research portfolio. This summer-to-summer program will accept two fellows each for Cohort 1 (May 2025 to August 2026) and Cohort 2 (May 2026 to August 2027).