New Report Examines the Success of STEM Education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 22, 2016The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has released a new report that examines ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as models of success in STEM education. The report, Historically Black Colleges and Universities as Leaders in STEM, has been produced in conjunction with CMSI’s upcoming “National Convening on HBCUs as Leaders in STEM” that takes place Sept. 23–25 in Philadelphia.
Both the report and the convening are the culmination of a multi-year research project funded by The Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The report outlines case studies of each of the ten HBCUs to determine how they have become significant contributors to our nation’s expanding need for a more STEM-literate workforce. In addition, it brings together national data to paint a broader picture of HBCUs’ contributions to STEM.
HBCUs have been crucial agents in educating Black students in STEM and other fields. Not only do HBCUs graduate 20% of all Black undergraduates in the United States, but eight HBCUs were among the top 20 institutions to award the most Science & Engineering bachelor’s degrees to Black graduates from 2008-2012. Their disproportionate success in this area is what led CMSI researchers to pursue this research in the first place.
“Data clearly show that HBCUs are leaders in STEM education but this fact has gone underreported in STEM-related research,” said Thai-Huy Nguyen, co-author of the report and an Assistant Professor of Education at Seattle University. “This report represents an opportunity for those working in STEM education to see HBCUs as innovators and, hopefully, to follow their lead.”
Some of the reasons HBCUs experience success in STEM, the report explains, are because they build on past legacies of achievement, promote a sense of family among students and faculty, adopt a culture of institutional responsibility, prioritize student learning over faculty needs, and provide students with same-gender and same-race faculty role models.
The ten HBCUs highlighted in the report include Xavier University of Louisiana, Dillard University, Morgan State University, Delaware State University, North Carolina Central University, Claflin University, Prairie View A&M University, Huston-Tillotson University, Lincoln University, and Cheyney University. As part of CMSI’s Helmsley-funded research, these institutions each received a $50,000 capacity building grant to expand their STEM programs.
“The success of STEM education at HBCUs is even more remarkable when you take into account the fact that they often have far fewer resources than majority institutions,” said Marybeth Gasman, co-author of the report, professor, and Director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. “As the economy tightens for all institutions of higher education, we need to look toward HBCUs for proven solutions that will help students nationwide.”
A more in-depth account of the report’s results as well as an exploration of the HBCUs’ innovative success models will be presented at CMSI’s convening later this week. The convening will feature CMSI researchers as well as leading scholars in the field of HBCU STEM research, public and private funders of STEM education, and representatives (students, administrators, and faculty) of the grant-funded HBCUs.
Full copies of the report are freely available at CMSI’s website.
About the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions 
The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. For further information about CMSI, please visit

Thursday, September 22, 2016