August 13 2021
Biotechnology/Life Sciences/Pharmaceuticals,Education/Training

Capital Region STEM Degree Awards Rise amid Pandemic, Boosted by Life Sciences

The life sciences vitalized the Capital Region’s STEM talent pipeline during the pandemic. In 2020, the eight-county region’s traditional colleges and universities saw an 8.3 percent increase in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees1 – boosted by sizeable gains in biological and biomedical sciences degree awards at the University at Albany, according to a Center for Economic Growth (CEG) analysis of new data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Traditional Institutions

In 2020, 17 Capital Region colleges and universities2 awarded a grand total 14,478 degrees, up 0.4 percent from the previous year. Among those degrees, 3,901 were in STEM fields. That marked a 299, or 8,3 percent, increase from 2019. There was, however, a 3.3 percent decline at traditional institutions3 in degree awards in the health professions and related programs field.

All STEM fields, with the exception of engineering-related technologies saw an increase in degree awards in 2020. Engineering, the STEM field with the most degrees (1,225), saw a 5.2 percent annual increase. Computer and IT Sciences, with the second most STEM degrees (1,078), saw a 3 percent increase. While the University at Albany experienced a 46.1 percent (+59) increase in the health professions and related programs field, that was not enough to offset a 37.6 percent decrease (-91) at Maria College.

Distance Learning Institutions

Despite the shift to remote learning during the pandemic, the region’s two online colleges – Excelsior College and SUNY Empire – saw degree awards decline by 20.4 percent to 911 in STEM fields. There was also a 9.0 percent to 1,690 degrees in the health professions and related programs field.

CEG Initiatives

The growth in life sciences degrees preceded the Capital Region Economic Development Council’s recent designation of medical device manufacturing and drug manufacturing as key regional clusters in its 2021 Strategic Update.

In addition to assisting the CREDC, CEG is supporting the growth of the region’s life sciences cluster by engaging in the following activities:

Marketing the Capital Region’s life sciences R&D assets at talent pipeline.

Conducting a life sciences cluster study that developed an action plan for: 1. improving the commercialization of local life sciences innovations, 2. strengthening the region’s life sciences ecosystem; 3. and recruiting contract research organizations (CROs) to the region.

Assisting life sciences startups with accessing labs, office space, and other facilities; developing venture pitches; identifying potential investors and mentors.

Helping biotech firms, such as Vyv and Precision Valve & Automation grow through Business Growth Solutions services, including continuous improvement, technology acceleration, energy and sustainability, supply chain development and workforce initiatives.



1 STEM field: Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Engineering, Engineering/Engineering-related Technologies/Technicians, Mathematics and Statistics, Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians, Physical Sciences, Science Technologies/Technicians.

2 STEM degree-awarding institutions: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University at Albany, Hudson Valley Community College, Union College, Siena College, Skidmore College, The College of Saint Rose, SUNY Adirondack, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Russell Sage College, SUNY Schenectady, Columbia-Greene Community College, Albany Medical College, Clarkson University Capital Region Campus, Bryant & Stratton College, Mildred Elley School, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

3 Health professions and related programs degree-awarding institutions: Russell Sage College, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Hudson Valley Community College, Albany Medical College, University at Albany, Maria College, The College of Saint Rose, SUNY Adirondack, Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing, Columbia-Greene Community College, Clarkson University Capital Region Campus, Bryant & Stratton College, St. Peter’s Hospital College of Nursing, Mildred Elley School, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Siena College, SUNY Schenectady

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