Strengthening the STEM Pipeline Part II

STEM 2 report cover

​The 2014 Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) report Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges demonstrated the critical role this sector of higher education institutions plays in preparing its students for success in obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This report takes the research one step further to explore the role of small and mid-sized institutions in preparing individuals historically underrepresented in STEM fields—specifically, women, blacks or African Americans, and Latino/Latina graduates—for further study and research.

To address the research questions, bachelor’s degree recipients from four major types of institutions—public nondoctoral, public doctoral, private nonprofit nondoctoral, and private nonprofit doctoral—were compared on several postsecondary education outcome indicators: persistence in undergraduate STEM programs, time-to-degree, post-baccalaureate employment and education outcomes, and earning a doctoral degree in a STEM field. The analysis was conducted using National Center for Education Statistics and National Science Foundation datasets that are nationally representative.

Private nonprofit nondoctoral colleges—the ones most closely representative of CIC—show the highest persistence rates 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. Almost eight of 10 women who obtain STEM bachelor’s degrees from private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions graduate within four years, a rate that exceeds all other groups of students at all other types of institutions. The data show highly positive assessments of interactions with faculty at private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions among historically underrepresented groups. And graduates from these institutions express levels of satisfaction with their undergraduate educations second only to bachelor’s degree recipients from private doctoral institutions.

Around 41 percent of graduates from private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions obtained graduate degrees, a higher rate of graduate degree attainment than from public institutions. Similar proportions of underrepresented minority STEM bachelor’s recipients from private nondoctoral and public doctoral institutions held a graduate degree. In the realm of post-baccalaureate employment, approximately seven of 10 STEM bachelor’s degree recipients from private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions were working in STEM or STEM-related occupations in 2015 (the most recent year for which data were available). This number is very similar to the 67 percent of STEM bachelor’s holders from other types of institutions who were working in STEM or STEM-related fields.

Finally, the analysis explored the role of private nonprofit nondoctoral institutions in preparing their graduates to obtain research doctorate degrees in STEM fields. 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.

View charts from the report.

​Council of Independent Colleges and NORC at the University of Chicago
Tafaya Ransom, Zachary Gebhardt, Erin Knepler, and Lance A. Selfa
June 2019

Student Outcomes; STEM; Student Demographics