Colleges Are Urged to Cooperate to Bring More Women and Minorities Into Science
Two leading science and educational advocacy groups set out a strategy Monday for producing more science and engineering graduates by bringing research universities into student-centered alliances with two-year, liberal arts and minority-serving institutions.
The plan essentially calls on colleges from all sectors to work harder at ensuring that students at institutions with few or no science offerings have a lot more options for getting quality science training at nearby campuses.
That idea, along with a series of recommendations for carrying it out, is the focal point of a new report drafted by EducationCounsel and the American Association for the Advancement of Science with the backing of major higher education groups including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.
The plan reflects a realization that existing efforts to improve the nation’s output of science and engineering graduates have focused too narrowly on helping the students, not paying sufficient attention to the institutional structures surrounding them, said Arthur L. Coleman, a managing partner of EducationCounsel, an advocacy group that led the project.
Policymakers often “talk pipeline, pipeline, pipeline” when trying to boost science and engineering performance, said Mr. Coleman, a lawyer who served as an Education Department official in the Clinton administration. Instead, he said, “we should be taking a step back and thinking of better ways to connect institutions.”
The report’s title, “The Smart Grid for Institutions of Higher Education and the Students They Serve,” refers to an electrical “smart grid,” the computer-driven network of power lines that automatically distributes electricity from areas of low priority to places of highest need.
The analogy doesn’t necessarily mean that science and engineering courses should be standardized or fully interchangeable among institutions, leaving no limits on student flow, Mr. Coleman said. But the groups behind the plan believe colleges could do a lot more to replicate some existing strategies and alliances that better enable students from all backgrounds to take science and engineering courses, he said