The National Science Board on Tuesday published “Higher Education in Science and Engineering,” a new set of congressionally mandated STEM indicators. Key findings include those on undergraduate enrollment, which dropped by 3.6 percent over all in fall 2020, with public community colleges showing the sharpest decline at 10 percent. The total number of international students on visas enrolled at U.S. institutions declined by almost 23 percent from 2019 to 2020, largely due to COVID-19. While women are at or approaching parity with men at most degree levels and earn more than half of degrees in some fields, the report says, “long-standing differences persist,” especially in engineering, computer sciences and mathematics and statistics.
Black students are underrepresented at all degree levels, and Hispanic and Native Americans students are underrepresented at all but the associate’s level. Also of concern to the board is that a larger proportion of Black than Asian and white students earn STEM degrees—especially doctorates—from for-profit institutions, “with possible consequences for debt and career outcomes.” STEM education is highly concentrated among a small number of colleges and universities, the report also warns, though STEM degrees awarded continued to increase at all levels across many fields from 2000 to 2019. The U.S. awards the largest number of STEM doctorates of any nation.