In recent years, the College of Science has enhanced support for underrepresented minority students and first-generation students and increased enrollment of high achieving students (with a GPA of 3.5 and higher). The demographics of the class of 2021 show impressive gains in all these areas.
This fall, the College welcomed 696 new students, a huge increase of 31 percent from last year’s incoming class. Twenty-five percent, or 173 first-year students, indicated they are first in their family to attend college and 23 percent are underrepresented minorities. The College is thrilled to welcome the highest ever number of high achieving students in its incoming class: 37.6 percent!
More than half of first-year science students, or 570, receive scholarship support. While this financial support has no doubt helped to attract and inspire top science students, the numerous opportunities and support for undergraduate research in labs across and beyond OSU have also attracted many talented students to the College.
Students sometimes start conducting research in their first year of college itself, supported by awards such as the SURE Science scholarship program. The latter offers students financial support for summer research across campus that can foster meaningful, scholarly connections early in their academic careers and help define their professional career path.
The increase in student diversity points to the strength of campus-wide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs such as LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation), OSU STEM Leaders and SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science), which help to connect and fuel students interest in science through workshops, peer mentoring and research experiences helping them succeed both on campus and in their future professions.
“I am delighted to welcome the class of 2021 to the College of Science at OSU. I hope they take every opportunity to expand their professional and intellectual horizons in science. Our faculty and advisors are dedicated to student success,” said Roy Haggerty, dean of the College of Science.
Overall fall term 2017 enrollment at OSU (which includes the main Corvallis campus, Ecampus and OSU-Cascades in Bend) grew 1.9 percent from last year, while enrollment at OSU’s main campus in Corvallis continued to be stable. University-wide the number of high-achieving, minority and first-generation students have also risen in varying numbers. The most impressive enrollment figure is a 6.3 percent increase in minority students over a year ago.
A look at demographics: Women rule
The majority of the 696 students in the class of 2021—67%—identified as female, which constitutes the highest number of first-year women students in science since 2013. At 467, the total number of new women students this year constitutes a 51.6 percent increase over fall 2016.
While nationwide, women have been enrolling in and graduating from college in greater numbers than men for the last few decades, the data on women pursuing undergraduate degrees in science and mathematics tends to fluctuate across disciplines and fields.
Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that in 2014, 42 percent women and 58 percent men earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics. In biological and agricultural sciences, the numbers were 58 percent women and 42 percent men.
At OSU, first-year science students who were surveyed identified as follows: 59 percent white, 13.6 percent students Asian, 2.3 percent Black or African American, 15 percent Hispanic or Latino, one percent American Indian or Alaskan Native, three percent multiethnic and five percent declined to identify their ethnicity.
The survey reflects a 46.8 percent increase in newly enrolled underrepresented minority students in science since fall 2016. Among underrepresented minority students, Hispanic students numbered the highest this year at 104.
The number of first-time students increased by more than 25 percent as compared to fall 2016.
The variation in enrollment data among various minority groups can be viewed in the context of national trends. A 2017 National Science Foundation Report on Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering states that the share of Hispanics in science and engineering fields has doubled in the past 20 years, with the increase accelerating in the last decade.
The same study reports that while African American student enrollment has steadily increased in psychology, social science and biological sciences, it has declined in “the other science and engineering fields, most notably in mathematics and statistics.”
The crossovers: High-achieving, first-gen and underrepresented
Parsing the numbers further shows a strong correlation between a first-year student’s ethnicity and her or his parents’ educational background: 35 percent of the 173 students who are the first in their family to attend college are also underrepresented minority students. Of the 201 high achieving students, 10 percent or 67 are first-generation students and an almost equal number are minority students (see infographic below). Two percent or just 12 out of 201 high achieving students are both minority and first-generation students.
Science majors by the numbers
Like in previous years, biology and the biohealth sciences majors attracted the greatest number of students—39.6 percent or 276 students and 26 percent or 184 students respectively. Of 696 students, 5.6 percent are biochemistry and biophysics majors,4.7 percent are biochemistry and molecular biology students, 6.5 percent are zoology majors, 7.3 percent are chemistry majors, 4 percent will major in mathematics, 3.3 percent are physics majors, and 2.4 percent are microbiology students.
A new major in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics with a strong laboratory and research focus has proven popular. Biochemistry and molecular biology ushered in its first cohort of 33 students.
The Department of Mathematics welcomed 28 first-year students, the highest number of math majors since 2013. The number of physics students too has risen steadily at 23 first-year students, the highest since 2013.
According to the 2015 Annual Survey of Mathematical Sciences published by AMS, total undergraduate enrollments for mathematics, applied math, statistics and biostatistics across public and private universities (medium, small and large) has increased slightly from 2,481,000 to 2,518,000 since 2012. Mathematics doctoral departments such as OSU awarded eight percent more bachelor’s degrees in 2015 as compared to 2014.