Valley schools rank high in STEM Latino grads

12:05 PM CDT on 8.7.2012

valleymorningstar.com

Rio Grande Valley higher education institutions ranked among the top 25 schools in the nation producing Latino graduates with STEM degrees, according to a report released by a Washington-based nonprofit.

However, the report on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees for Latinos shows that the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is outranked by the University of Texas—Pan American and South Texas College.

The report from Excelencia in Education listed STC as first in the nation in graduating Latinos with associate degrees in biological and biomedical sciences as well as engineering. Texas State Technical College in Harlingen ranked ninth in science technology/technician associate degrees.
“Considering that Latinos will account for three quarters of our workforce growth by 2020, it’s critical that we zero in on ways to increase Latino student success in STEM,” Aneesh Chopra, who served as the first chief technology officer of the United States, said in a press release about the report.

The “Finding Your Workforce” report, the third in a series this year, does not purport to study the quality of higher education but instead the number of Latinos graduating with STEM degrees.
Valley institutions also ranked in the first report from the series this spring that looked at the overall number of Latinos graduating. At that time, UTB-TSC issued a press release with President Juliet V. Garcia saying in a message to the faculty that the rankings were the result of a focused effort.
In all, UTB-TSC’s four-year graduation rate is 15 percent, Associate Provost Ruth Ann Ragland said.

The report, which makes no mention of TSC, ranked UTB among the top 25 in four categories. UTB and TSC continue to end the process to end their partnership, with separation to be complete by August 2015.

UTB-TSC ranked in the following:
– 15th in math and statistics bachelor’s degrees;
– 19th in biological and biomedical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 22nd in computer and information sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 24th in math and statistics certificates.

Recently, the importance of STEM education in Cameron County has been underlined as space transport company SpaceX considers building a launch pad here.

The University of Texas at Brownsville released a statement in response to questions from The Herald about the new report from Excelencia in Education. The university noted that UTB-TSC was ranked on lists among larger universities, some of them sister UT campuses.

“UT Brownsville is proud to be among the top 25 universities in the nation in graduating Latinos with bachelor’s degrees in three STEM categories, as recognized by Excelencia in Education,” the statement said. “The rankings by Excelencia, Hispanic Outlook and others are impressive, but there is tremendous work yet to be done by all higher education institutions throughout the nation.”
There was no direct response to a question about UTB-TSC being outranked by other Valley institutions.

“UT Pan American, South Texas College and Texas State Technical College, with whom UTB is a partner in multiple programs, also were recognized by Excelencia for their number of degrees awarded to Latinos, and we congratulate them,” the statement said.

As examples of the university bolstering STEM education, the statement pointed to the new College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions, the recently opened Biomedical Research Building, and the research laboratory building currently under construction.

“UT Brownsville recognizes the critical demand for graduates in STEM fields and will continue to build its programs and work with business and industry to meet needs of the community and the region,” the statement said.

This fall, UTB said, will mark the first class of UTeach students, who will graduate from the program as STEM teachers with credentials. It will also be the first time a new bachelor’s in biomedical sciences will be offered to help students prepare for admission to medical schools more quickly under a UT System pilot program.

The University of Texas—Pan American ranked in more than one area in regard to master’s degrees and higher when it comes to bachelor degrees:
– second in biological and biomedical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– third in math and statistics bachelor’s degrees;
– eighth in physical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 10th in engineering bachelor’s degrees;
– 21st in biological and biomedical sciences master’s degrees;
– 21st in physical sciences master’s degrees.

According to the report, Latinos earned just a small portion – 8 percent – of STEM certificates and degrees. However, 40 percent of them graduated from the top 25 institutions, making for a concentration within just a few colleges and universities located in Puerto Rico and only six states — Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Illinois and New Mexico, according to a press release.
Additionally, Latino STEM workers are more likely to be employed in lower paying service occupations such as telecommunications line installers rather than, for example, computer and information systems managers, the press release said.

South Texas College, based in McAllen with other satellite campuses in the Upper Valley, ranked in the most categories out of any Valley institution:
– first in engineering associate degrees;
– third in computer and information sciences certificates;
– third in math and statistics associate degrees;
– sixth in physical sciences associate degrees;
– seventh in engineering technology certificates;
– 10th in computer and information sciences associate degrees;
– 17th computer and information sciences bachelor’s degrees.

“This analysis is straightforward: we know where Latinos are earning their degrees in STEM and we know what some of these institutions are doing, with intentionality, to improve Latino success in STEM fields,” said report author and Excelencia in Education co-founder Deborah Santiago said in a press release. “What we need to determine now is whether more institutions and more employers will seize the opportunity to educate and employ more Latinos in professional STEM fields.”

12:05 PM CDT on 8.7.2012

 
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