Providing S&E Education
New Modes of Instructional Delivery
New Types of Institutions
The U.S. higher education system provides broad access to varied
institutions, which differ in size, type of administrative control
(public or private), selectivity, and focus. (See sidebar, "Carnegie
Classification of Academic Institutions.") The system gives
students flexibility in moving between institutions, transferring
credits, entering and leaving schools, and switching between full-
and part-time status.
Nonprofit degree-granting institutions that offer face-to-face
classroom education continue to dominate U.S. higher education.
These traditional institutions have incorporated new modes of education
delivery, through IT and distance education, into their repertoires.
New institutional forms that feature control by profit-making firms,
certificate programs designed to enhance specific skills, and primary
reliance on distance education, alone or in combination, have also
emerged in recent years. However, these new forms still play a limited
role in S&E education.
Institutions Providing S&E Education
The U.S. higher education system consists of approximately 3,700
degree-granting colleges and universities that served about 15.6
million students and awarded 2.3 million degrees in 2000. Almost
one-quarter of the degrees were in S&E fields (appendix
tables 2-1 ,
shows the distribution of institutions, enrollment, degrees, and
research and development expenditures across the different types
of academic institutions. The institutions are classified according
to a typology published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement
of Teaching 1994.
The typology groups institutions on the basis of the type and breadth
of their programs, the volume of doctoral degrees conferred, the
amount of Federal R&D funding, and their selectivity in the
Although research and doctorate-granting universities award most
of the S&E baccalaureates, students earn such degrees at all
kinds of institutions. In different S&E fields, the role of
different kinds of institutions varies. Research and doctorate-granting
universities produced most of the undergraduate engineering degrees
(78 percent in 2000) and about half of the degrees in natural and
agricultural sciences and in social and behavioral sciences. However,
master's and liberal arts institutions produce most of the undergraduate
degrees in mathematics and computer sciences (figure
A higher percentage of baccalaureate recipients studied S&E
at research universities and selective liberal arts colleges than
at other kinds of institutions. However, over the past 30 years,
these S&E-focused institutions accounted for a declining percentage
of higher education enrollment (appendix
table 2-2 ).
Master's and doctoral degrees were concentrated in research and
doctorate-granting universities (appendix
table 2-3 ).
The fastest-growing major segment of higher education is community
colleges. These institutions are a bridge for students who want
to attend 4-year colleges, and some S&E graduates earn credit
at community colleges toward their degrees (Bailey and
Averianova 1999). Community colleges also offer remedial courses
and services and enroll millions of students in noncredit and workforce
training classes. Enrollment in remedial courses often includes
many older adults taking refresher courses (American
Association of Community Colleges 2001).
Some traditional colleges and universities educate a disproportionate
share of undergraduate racial/ethnic minorities, including historically
black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions
(HSIs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and postsecondary
minority institutions. In 1998, 29 percent of the blacks who received
S&E bachelor's degrees earned them at HBCUs. About one-third
of Hispanics who earned S&E bachelor's degrees did so at HSIs.
Only six TCUs are 4-year colleges or universities; the rest are
2-year schools. Of the six TCUs that offer bachelor's degrees, two
offer baccalaureates in S&E fields (NSF/SRS
New Modes of Instructional Delivery
Institutions of higher education are increasingly using advanced
IT and distance education and are exploring the best ways to use
these recent innovations to improve S&E education.
IT in Traditional Institutions
Advances in IT have provided scientists with powerful tools to
amass and manipulate large databases and to solve previously intractable
problems requiring complex calculations. Computer laboratories can
bring advanced research to undergraduates via simulations. (See
sidebar, "IT in Forest Ecology.") U.S. institutions
of higher education are developing the IT infrastructure needed
for computer-driven classes. In 2002, more than half of the classes
in colleges used Internet-based resources, about one-third had Web-based
pages for courses, and rates of e-mail use in all college classes
were close to 70 percent. In addition, campuses are investing in
wireless networks. Nearly 70 percent of the campuses responding
to the 2002 Campus Computing Survey indicated that wireless networks
were functioning in at least some part of their campus (Green
Distance education has been a significant feature of higher education
for more than 60 years. Until the advent of electronic means of
easy communication, distance education was mainly conducted through
the mail, either as correspondence courses offered by traditional
universities or as certification programs offered by for-profit
correspondence schools. As electronic technology evolved, so did
the principal means of delivery of distance education, advancing
from courses delivered by radio (in the 1930s), television (in the
1950s), audio- or videocassettes (in the 1970s and 1980s), and computer
and videoconferencing via satellite (in the 1990s) to the Internet,
the most popular form of delivery from the 1990s to the present.
Distance education in U.S. colleges and universities expanded dramatically
in the late 1990s, according to a nationally representative survey
taken in 200001 (U.S. Department
of Education 2003b). Both enrollment in for-credit distance
education courses and the number of courses offered more than doubled
from 199798 to 200001: enrollment grew from 1.3 million
to 2.9 million, and course offerings grew from 47,500 to 118,000.
In 200001, 56 percent (2,320) of 2- and 4-year institutions
offered distance education courses, up from 44 percent 3 years earlier.
However, percentages were much higher in public institutions. Almost
90 percent of public 2-year and 4-year institutions offered distance
education courses; 16 percent of private 2-year and 40 percent of
private 4-year institutions offered such courses. Still, fewer than
10 percent of students in S&E fields took courses through distance
Various technologies were used in delivering these distance courses.
Ninety percent of the institutions offering distance education courses
used online technologies such as the Internet and e-mail. A smaller
percentage offered live interactive technologies, such as computer
(43 percent) or video (51 percent) conferencing.
Rather than replacing traditional institutions, distance education
enables these institutions to reach a wider audience for higher
education. A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study
on distance education conducted in 19992000 found that students
taking advantage of distance education opportunities tended to be
older (e.g., undergraduates age 24 years and older), have family
responsibilities, and have limited time. They were more likely to
be enrolled in public 2-year colleges, attend school part time,
and work full time while enrolled (U.S.
Department of Education 2003a).
Offering S&E courses through distance education has challenges
and benefits. For example, one challenge is in equating experiences
in virtual or online laboratories with traditional class laboratories.
(See sidebar, "Distance Education: Problems and Successes.")
New Types of Institutions
Certificate programs, for-profit colleges and universities, and
various forms of industrial learning centers play a small but growing
role in S&E higher education. Programs that award certificates
have become an increasingly popular method for students and S&E
professionals to learn a particular skill or expand their interest
to a related field and to have their knowledge documented. General
characteristics of graduate certificate programs are a focus on
practical skills (e.g., hazardous waste management and infection
control); fewer course requirements than for a master's degree (three
to six specific courses); and, typically, an interdisciplinary scope
(e.g., environmental ethics). Certificates represent a university's
flexibility in a changing environment and an industry's need to
upgrade the skills of its workers in emerging and rapidly changing
fields. Although they are most commonly offered in health sciences,
education, business, and IT, certificate programs are also offered
in social sciences, environmental studies, engineering, and other
sciences (Patterson 2001).
Providers include 2- and 4-year colleges and universities of all
types and the education units of various corporations (e.g., Microsoft,
Cisco, Oracle, and Novell). In 2002, approximately 500 universities
offered graduate certificate programs, up from 40 in 1997 (Patterson
2002). In some cases, the coursework may be applied to a degree
program. Community colleges are also an important source of S&E-related
certificate programs, particularly in health and computer sciences.
In 2000, community colleges represented almost half of the academic
providers of IT-related certificates.
Certificates can be earned through onsite or distance education
and in some programs, particularly in IT, are awarded on completion
of a skill-based exam, requiring no specific coursework. A Department
of Education study in 2000 showed strong growth in exam-based certificates
for the IT industry in the 1990s, extending well beyond the United
States (U.S. Department of Education
2000b). In 1999, 5,000 sites
in 140 countries were administering an estimated 3 million assessments
in 25 languages. More than 300 discrete certifications have been
established since 1989, when the first IT certificate (Certified
Novell Engineer) was issued.
The percentage of students enrolled in for-profit institutions
remains small, even though the number of institutions is growing.
The Community College Research Center (CCRC) found that student
enrollment in for-profit 2-year institutions accounted for 4 percent
of total enrollment in 2-year institutions (Bailey,
Badway, and Gumport 2003). Among 4-year institutions, the for-profit
enrollment share was less than 2 percent. A report of the Education
Commission of the States found that between 1989 and 1999, the number
of for-profit 2-year degree-granting institutions grew 78 percent,
representing 28 percent of all 2-year institutions in 1999. During
the same period, the number of for-profit 4-year institutions grew
by 266 percent (Bailey, Badway, and
Certificates accounted for 57 percent of all degrees awarded by
U.S. for-profit 2-year institutions, which was more than awarded
by public 2-year institutions (35 percent) (Bailey,
Badway, and Gumport 2003). On the basis of case studies of three
public community colleges and a for-profit chain, CCRC concluded
that for-profit 2-year institutions are more appropriate for students
interested in a narrowly focused career in a technical field, and
community colleges are better suited to students who are interested
in a general education or undecided on a major.
From 1988 to 2001, corporate "universities" grew from 400 to 2,000
(National Research Council 2002). Most of them primarily offer noncredit,
nondegree courses narrowly targeted at retraining the workforce
and other company needs. However, some large industries have internal
training at a higher education level in engineering and design.
For example, Motorola University contracts with 1,200 faculty worldwide
who teach business and engineering wherever Motorola is designing
Independent nonprofit institutions are also emerging to provide
training geared specifically to corporate needs. These institutions
offer credit-bearing courses and degree programs through IT and
distance education. Institutions such as the Western Governors University
and the United States Open University are recently formed examples.
Since 1984, the National Technological University (NTU), a consortium
of some 540 institutions, has been developing and offering courses
and degree programs for engineering-oriented companies. The programs
target engineering professionals interested in obtaining master's
degrees in 1 of 18 engineering, technical, or business areas. All
1,300 academic courses offered by NTU are supplied by 52 leading
engineering universities, including 25 of the top engineering schools
in the country (National Research Council 2002).
For-profit and nonprofit subsidiaries of institutions and partnerships
between 4-year institutions and private companies comprise a third
type of industry learning center. The University of Maryland, College
Park and eCornell are examples of for-profit or nonprofit subsidiaries
of postsecondary education institutions. Both offer credit and noncredit
courses to individuals and corporate universities. Motorola has
partnerships with traditional institutions for sharing technology,
faculty, and facilities. Motorola is part of a Ph.D. program at
the International Institute of Information Technology (formerly
the Indian Institute of Information Technology) in Hyderabad, India,
and degree programs at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and
Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois (Wiggenhorn