Rural community colleges (CCs) have recently done much better than urban and suburban CCs in the percentage increase of associate degrees awarded to women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. From 1986 to 2005, rural CCs increased the number of women and minority STEM graduates by more than 42 percent. Meanwhile, urban CCs boosted these underrepresented groups by less than 24 percent and suburban CCs by about 10 percent.
University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa (UAT) researchers studied the production of STEM graduates in CCs of different sizes and geographic locations and found that rural CCs increased their number of female engineering technology graduates by more than 37 percent during the 20-year period studied, while that number decreased by 19 percent and 17 percent at suburban and urban CCs respectively. The researchers also found a substantial decrease in the number of STEM degrees at CCs going to men.
"It may well be that the programs that NSF [the U.S. National Science Foundation] and others have targeted for women and other underrepresented populations in recent years should expand their focus to include populations that are better represented in higher education as a whole," say UAT professors David E. Hardy and Stephen G. Katsinas.
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