CIC Report: Underrepresented Students Succeed in STEM Fields at Small and Mid-Sized Institutions

STEM at Hollins

Women are more likely to earn science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees on time at small and mid-sized colleges such as Hollins than at other types of institutions, according to a new report commissioned by The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

Strengthening the STEM Pipeline Part II: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges in Preparing Underrepresented Students in STEM, authored by NORC at the University of Chicago, finds that among women earning STEM baccalaureate degrees from private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions, 78 percent graduated within four years, compared to 23 percent at public nondoctoral institutions, 50 percent at public doctoral institutions, and 67 percent at private doctoral institutions.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Of all the women who started their college careers majoring in STEM fields at private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions, 61 percent persisted in STEM fields, the highest rate for women across all institutional categories.
  • Students who earned STEM baccalaureate degrees from private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions later attained graduate degrees at higher rates than graduates from public nondoctoral and doctoral institutions.
  • Nearly all black and Hispanic STEM graduates of private nondoctoral institutions were satisfied with the quality of their undergraduate education.

“A crucial feature of a strong U.S. STEM workforce is that it fully leverages the nation’s innovative capacity by engaging all segments of the population, including groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields,” the report states. “Private nonprofit nondoctoral colleges show the highest persistence among women, blacks, and Latinos/Latinas in STEM fields within five years of first baccalaureate enrollment when compared to similar students at other types of institutions. The data show highly positive assessments of interactions with faculty at private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions among historically underrepresented groups.”

The report concludes, “The analysis demonstrates the critical importance of the private nonprofit nondoctoral sector in preparing its graduates for STEM doctoral study, especially for women STEM graduates in chemistry, biology, life sciences, and physical sciences, fields in which the private nondoctoral sector excels as the training ground for future STEM doctorates granted to women.”

The report, available for download here, extends research contained in Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges, which was published in 2014.

Hollins is a member of the CIC, an association of nonprofit independent colleges and universities, state-based councils of independent colleges, and other higher education affiliates that works to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society.