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The STEM and CTE Pipeline for Community College Students with Learning Disabilities


The technological nature of the world we live in has produced a need for a workforce that is technologically savvy and possesses 21st century skills and abilities. Given that students with a learning disability (LD) may be an untapped source of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or career and technical education (CTE) potential, it is important to understand 1) whether LD students are capable of pursuing STEM and CTE fields and 2) what will aid them in successfully pursuing those fields. The two studies presented aim to answer those questions through a latent profile and latent class analysis. The results from the first study indicated that there are two STEM capable profiles of LD students: High-STEM and CTE Capability or Low-STEM Capability. It was found that female LD students were significantly more likely to be in the High-STEM and CTE Capability profile (.75, p < .05) by 2.11 times and that African-American LD students were significantly more likely to be found in the Low-STEM Capability profile (-1.31, p < .10). It was also more prevalent for LD students to pursue either STEM or CTE at the 2-year college regardless of what profile they resided in. Understanding a students’ STEM or CTE capability can play a role in how they prepare and plan for their future. For the second study it was found that LD students could be categorized into three engagement classes: Highly Engaged LD Students, Moderately Engaged LD Students, and Poorly Engaged LD Students. Again, gender played a role in students’ classification and it was found that female students were significantly more likely to be in the Moderately Engaged class (.22, p < .05). Results from this study also indicate that the 2-year pathway is the most traversed by LD students. LD students who were engaged in their IEP process, possess self-determination, and are able to utilize accommodations were more successful in pursuing a STEM and CTE field. Implications for postsecondary institutions will be discussed.

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