National Science Foundation
HBCUs lead the way in STEM degrees conferred

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Undergraduate Program provides awards to enhance the quality of undergraduate STEM education and research at HBCUs. The program began in 1998, funding eight cohorts of institutions representing 57 of the nation’s 103 HBCUs.

In 2001, the NSF HBCU-UP program funded a cohort of six institutions: Fort Valley State University, Jarvis Christian College, Kentucky State University, Saint Augustine’s College, Southern University New Orleans, and Tougaloo College. This cohort of institutions produces a larger percentage of STEM graduates than the national average, with 28.3 percent of their total graduates being STEM majors, compared to 16.7 percent nationally. They have also seen a steady increase in this percentage during the last four years, from 20.8 percent to 28.3 percent, while the national percentage has been relatively flat at 16.5 percent to 16.7 percent.

HBCUs also made strides in improving those courses that often pose a problem for beginning STEM majors—also called the “gateway” courses. Improvements in these courses include changes in delivery methods, utilizing technology, and providing supplemental instruction based on current pedagogical research. Data from the six schools in the 2001 cohort, and the 2002 cohort which includes Central State University, Claflin College, Norfolk State University, Talladega College and Wilberforce University, show increases in successful completion of gateway mathematics courses increase by approximately 10 percent by year three of their NSF projects. The 2001 cohort showed an 11 percent increase in college algebra and a 10 percent increase in calculus I, while the 2002 cohort showed a 10 percent increase in college algebra and an 8 percent increase in calculus I. Similar results were evident in biology and chemistry. The institutions also developed twenty two new courses, and enhanced sixty eight courses, some leading to new majors and minors.

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