Institutions that produce the most Latino graduates in the STEM fields were singled out for recognition Thursday in a report hailed as a guide for other colleges and universities that are looking to achieve similar results.
“The message here is we need to use this report as evidence to drive our practices,” said Laird Kramer, founding director of the STEM Transformation Institute at Florida International University.
The report was produced by Excelencia in Education, a D.C.-based policy and analysis organization that focuses on issues of Hispanic success in higher education.
Laird’s university is one of the dozens of institutions cited in the report for awarding outstanding numbers of degrees to Latinos in STEM fields.
For instance, 68 percent of FIU’s bachelor’s degrees in biological/biomedical sciences were awarded to Latinos. The figures for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in physical sciences were 72, 42 and 25 percent, respectively. Sixty-two percent of its bachelor’s degrees in computer sciences went to Latinos as did 36 percent of its master’s degrees in the field. In engineering, 63 percent of its bachelor’s degrees went to Latinos, as did 4 percent of its master’s degrees and 17 percent of its doctorate degrees in engineering. Ninety-one percent of its bachelor’s degrees in mathematics went to Hispanics.
The Hispanic population at FIU is 59.6 percent.
Asked during a webinar Thursday for an example of a specific program or practice that FIU had put into place to boost Hispanic graduation rates, Laird cited the Learning Assistant Program, which, among other things, provides opportunities for undergraduates to get paid $1,500 per semester to work 10 hours a week on “course transformation” by engaging and collaborating with other students.
“These students have actually kind of taken ownership of helping their peers learn,” Laird said.
Students that opt to continue enroll in teacher preparation programs — a key component of developing even more STEM-interested students in the future, Laird said — and are eligible for $10,000 fellowships.
The report released Thursday is meant as more than a guide to colleges and universities searching for best practices. It is also meant to help employers gain a better sense of where to recruit Hispanic talent, Excelencia officials and other panelists said.
Deborah Santiago, vice president for Policy and Research Excelencia in Education, noted that the report found that in 2009-2010 academic year, Hispanics had only earned 8 percent of STEM certificates and degrees awarded that year.
That’s disproportionately low, given the fact that in 2010, there were 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, which represented 16 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Among the 8 percent, according to the report, the top field in STEM graduating Hispanics was science (10,900 degrees), followed by engineering (9,930 degrees), technology (8,481 degrees), and mathematics (1,490 degrees).
Santiago said that Hispanics will represent three-quarters of overall growth in the labor force over the next eight years. The report notes that 1 million more STEM professionals than are projected to graduate at current rates that are needed to help the U.S. maintain its historic preeminence in STEM. Santiago suggested that boosting the number of Latino STEM graduates will help the U.S. meet this particular goal.
Other key findings from the report include:
— A small number of institutions graduated a high percentage of Latino STEM graduates. “Combined, the top institutions conferring certificates or degrees to Latinos in STEM in 2009-10 graduated over 40 percent of Latinos earning a degree in these fields,” the report states. “These institutions awarded 43 percent of all degrees to Latinos in science, 41 percent of degrees awarded to Latinos in technology, 59 percent of degrees awarded in engineering, and 41 percent of degrees awarded to Latinos in mathematics.”
— Hispanic degree attainment in STEM is concentrated geographically. Specifically, at the undergraduate level, the top 25 institutions that conferred certificates or degrees to Latinos in 2009-10 were located in six states—Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Illinois, New Mexico—and Puerto Rico.
— Hispanic degree attainment in STEM is concentrated at the bachelor level. “In 2009-10, 60 percent of degrees conferred to Latinos in STEM were bachelor degrees,” the report states. “In general, these students will be most eligible to enter service occupations in STEM rather than professional occupations in STEM.”
— Hispanics working in STEM are concentrated in lower paying jobs, such as electrical, electronics, and electromechanical assemblers, telecommunications line installers and repairers, and aircraft mechanics and service technicians, than higher paying professional occupations. The higher paying occupations include architectural and engineering managers and computer and information systems managers, the report states.
The report deals with more than just numbers. One section of the report is devoted to describing specific things that institutions of higher learning were doing in the areas of college preparation, outreach, academic support, retention and completion.
The report is the third in a series of workforce reports produced by Excelencia. Previous reports have looked at the overall number of Latino graduates and Latino graduates in the medical fields. Future reports will look at the top institutions for Latino graduates in business, education and liberal arts.