Pennsylvania State University awarded the most undergraduate degrees in STEM fields (6,473) in 2019-20, the latest year for which relatively complete data are available.
Rounding out the top 5 were the University of California (Berkeley), Texas A and M University, Arizona State University and Purdue University, all of which graduated more than 4,000 STEM majors that year.
Those results are based on recent Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) figures as summarized in Higher Ed Data Stories, a blog written by Jon Boeckenstedt, the Vice Provost of Enrollment at Oregon State University.
The rest of the top 20 STEM producers, all of which had at least 3,000 STEM graduates, were (in order):
- University of California, San Diego
- University of Washington
- University of Michigan
- Ohio State University
- University of Wisconsin
- University of California, Davis
- University of Texas
- University of California, Los Angeles
- University of Maryland
- University of California, Irvine
- University of Illinois
- University of Florida
- University of Minnesota
- Georgia Tech University
- Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Several characteristics stand out about this group. All of the institutions are public universities; many are land-grants or their state’s flagship institution.
The five University of California campuses comprise 25% of the top 20 schools. Universities in the Big Ten conference make up 40% of the list.
All but two of the universities in the top 20 are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU); the two exceptions are Arizona State University and Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech).
To some extent this productivity is not surprising – each of the top 20 universities are large institutions, enrolling tens of thousands of students. On the other hand, their STEM supremacy is not merely synonymous with size. There’s more to it than that.
Higher Ed Data Stories’ dashboard allows you to search for the universities that produce the most graduates in a number of other broad academic fields such as education, business, humanities and the social sciences. (You can also narrow your search to more specific majors.)
Of the top 20 universities producing the most education majors, only one – Arizona State University – also appears in the top 20 STEM list.
A similar pattern exists for business graduates, where only four universities appear in both the STEM and business top 20s – Penn State, Arizona State, Texas A an M and Ohio State University.
If we consider all baccalaureate degrees, fewer than half (nine to be exact) of the top producers are also in the STEM top 20.
It’s encouraging to see that STEM degree productivity is greatest at exactly those universities that by virtue of their faculty, facilities, and funding have well-established capacity and reputations for excellence in engineering and science.
It’s a clear case of institutional mission and educational outcome coming together the way they should.
By the way, if you’re interested in other presentations and analysis of higher education data and you’ve not yet become a consumer of Higher Ed Data Stories, you should.
It’s an excellent source of information about all sorts of higher eduction issues, spiced up by Boeckenstedt’s reliably engaging, opinionated commentary.
He makes it easy to play with the data he arrays. And he challenges you to think through the competing explanations and implications of what’s there.
Because of that, the blog would also make for excellent class assignments in higher education graduate seminars.
Boeckenstedt posted his first Higher Ed Data Story about eight years ago and tries to churn one out every three of four weeks. To date, he’s had about 1.5 million views of his work.
Among topics Boeckenstedt has explored – with the superb assistance of his data visualization aids via Tableau software – are the relationship between educational attainment and the 2020 elections, what out-of-state schools enroll the most students from California, educational attainment in America since 1940, the astoundingly high correlation between SAT scores and eighth grade Math and English scores in New York City schools, and some great insights into the nature of “highly rejective” colleges.
I asked him in a recent interview why he began the blog, and he told me that he has long been interested in taking readily available data and then helping people use it.
He’s an English major turned data hound. “There’ve been a lot of really bad charts in higher ed newsletters and other publications over the years- hard to read and understand.
I wanted to take data, make it visually easy to examine and then tell a compelling story that would help people understand what the numbers mean.”