Science, technology, engineering and math enrollment up at Albany area colleges and universities
Albany Business Review
By: Shannon Sweeney
Albany area colleges and universities are enrolling graduate and postdoctoral students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a faster rate than the state as a whole.
This region is graduating more science and engineering students, according to a Center for Economic Growth analysis. During the 2015-16 school year, local schools awarded 5,328 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in various STEM fields.
Local schools enrolled 3,631 science and engineering graduate students in 2015. That’s up 8.8 percent from five years earlier. Across the state, average growth was about six percent. For postdoctoral appointments across the region, the numbers were even higher. From 2011 to 2015, the number of postdoctoral appointments grew 14.6 percent in science and engineering, compared to 3.9 percent across the state.
The data comes at a time where more Albany area schools are focusing on STEM programs. The University at Albany is expanding its engineering college, and Union College is investing $100 million in a new Science and Engineering Center.
Schools are doing this because of the need for talent to fill jobs in the area. There are thousands of computer, software, engineering and technician positions open, according to CEG’s analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Andrew Kennedy, president and CEO of the Albany economic development group, said focusing on STEM education attracts new businesses to the area. It also helps with keeping students in the area after graduation for jobs, something Albany has struggled with because of the lure of bigger cities.
“We’ve been able to demonstrate that we have the institutions that are able to produce students with those skills,” Kennedy said. “And we’re ensuring that they’re getting jobs from what they’re studying and jobs in the Capital Region.”
The analysis is the latest from the CEG about science and engineering research and programs, which Kennedy said helps market the region as a place for investment and job creation.
At the College of Saint Rose in Albany, science and engineering graduate student enrollment increased 121.4 percent over five years.
The college has attracted more international students to its graduate programs, said Ian MacDonald, interim dean for the School of Mathematics at Saint Rose. The college has graduate programs in information technology and recently added a master’s in computer science.
More students are also enrolling in undergraduate programs, like computer science.
“Students realize they have to get a job when they graduate,” he said. “All of our students who graduated with a computer science degree are working in the field. We’re constantly revamping our curriculum to stay connected with industry.”
Local high schools are also shifting focus to STEM education.
Clean Tech Early College High School, located at the TEC-SMART campus in Malta, held its graduation ceremony today. The high school, which enrolls about 275 students, prepares students for careers in energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced technology.
Joe Dragone, superintendent of Ballston Spa Central School District and leader of Clean Tech, said the majority of students attend college locally in various STEM programs. The students receive hands-on experience in various industries before they graduate.
“STEM was always about the applications of those fields, to solve problems,” Dragone said. “Our program takes the application of those fields of STEM and it focuses on the ability to solve problems.”