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Ark. colleges handing out more STEM degrees, study says

Local college official looks at study, sees opportunity for growth
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 8:30 PM CDT
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POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - A new study released by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture shows more people are getting science and engineering degrees over the past 15 years.

The study dives deep into rural Arkansas, looking at different trends including education.

Vice President of Academics Dr. Brad Baine at Black River Technical College had his eyes glued to the study that just came out.

He said it was good to see data that confirms what industries had been telling them.

With BRTC, a school of around 1,200 students, being one of the few colleges in rural Arkansas, they’ve seen their enrollment numbers trend up and down over the past few years.

Dr. Baine says even though the numbers were down since the pandemic started, they’re already seeing that number climb back up.

While the ratio of STEM-related degrees conferred has increased, up 22 percent in Arkansas from 2006 to 2018, the state still ranks 46th in the country in handing out science and technology degrees.

It is a gap Dr. Baine says still needs mending.

“It was good to see in a national report that what we’re being told by industry is actually what the data is showing us and that there is [an] emphasis on STEM,” Dr. Baine said. “There still is a gap that we need to be covering and keep working towards.”

Dr. Baine says the gap isn’t just continually raising the number of STEM degrees, it’s also making sure their students are prepared for the next step, whether it’s continuing their education or preparing them for the workforce.

The report also had these findings in rural Arkansas:

  • Public school enrollment declined seven percent from 2009-2010 to 2019-2020 in rural counties.
  • The Delta had the lowest rates of educational attainment for all college degrees in the state.
  • The ratio of STEM degrees conferred per 1,000 people rose from 10 to 16 from 2006 to 2018.
  • In Region 8, Craighead (14 percent), Greene (7), and Independence (3) counties saw the most growth percentage in population from 2010 to 2019, while Woodruff (13), Mississippi (12), and Cross (8) fell the most.
  • The population in rural areas decreased 3.3 percent from 2010-2019.

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