New Report Urges Nation to Strengthen STEM Programs at Minority Serving Institutions

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has called for education leaders, policymakers, and the private sector to take a range of actions to strengthen STEM programs and degree attainment at the nation’s minority serving institutions (MSIs).

“Given the projected demographic profile of our nation, the educational outcomes and STEM readiness of students of color will have direct implications for America’s economic growth, national security, and global prosperity,” said Lorelle Espinosa, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report, and vice president for research at the American Council on Education.

According to the report, MSIs produce one-fifth of the nation’s STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded to students of color, yet have markedly fewer financial resources than non-MSIs. This disparity reduces their capacity to innovate and experiment with programs to support the nation’s workforce, to evaluate them, and to replicate those that prove effective. With proper funding, attention, and support, these institutions can contribute much more to the STEM workforce, according to the report.

After extensive research and site visits to minority-serving institutions of higher education, the committee identified seven broad strategies that hold the greatest promise for strengthening the quality of STEM education and workforce preparation for MSI students: recruit dynamic, multilevel, mission-driven leaders; implement policies that support students who may need additional academic, financial, social support and flexibility; create supportive campus environments; create tailored academic and social supports; encourage mentorship and sponsorship; increase availability of undergraduate research experiences; and collaborate with beneficial public- and private-sector partnerships.

In addition to implementing these strategies, the report says that substantial resources are needed to help advance the success of MSIs and their students. Long-term commitments are needed from federal and state governments, tribal nations, and the philanthropic and private sectors. The authors urge these stakeholders to increase funding through government contracts, competitive and non-competitive grants, and partnerships. These targeted investments would allow MSIs to recruit and retain high-quality faculty, to procure and maintain state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities, to offer needed academic and social support to students, and to compete effectively for federal grants.

The full study, Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce, may be accessed here.

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