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President Caret unveils STEM education initiative at Capitol Hill forum

Aimed at Doubling STEM degrees Awarded to Underrepresented Minorities

WASHINGTON - UMass President Robert L. Caret today unveiled an innovative program aimed at doubling the number of underrepresented minority students graduating with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the state's 15 community colleges.

"This program will fuel our state's innovation economy by increasing the number of students earning science and technology degrees and also advances the important social goal of encouraging more people from underrepresented minority groups to enter these burgeoning fields," President Caret said.

"This important effort brings higher education and the business community together to advance shared goals and to shape a better future for Massachusetts and its citizens," President Caret added.

Under the program, which goes into effect this fall, UMass and the community colleges will work over the next four years to double the number of students from underrepresented minority groups earning associate's and bachelor's degrees in the STEM fields.

The program, called ABLE 4 STEM, was announced at a Capitol Hill forum hosted by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF). The program is an initiative led by the University in collaboration with the community colleges of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (MACP), and the Massachusetts Governor's STEM Advisory Council.
ABLE 4 STEM will work to forge new links between the UMass campuses and community colleges to:

  • Establish pathways for associate's degree graduates from the community colleges to enter STEM majors at UMass campuses
  • Designate UMass courses for "reverse transfer" of credits to community colleges, allowing students who have previously earned community college credits to complete their associate's degrees while attending UMass and working towards their bachelor's degree. 

The MACP and business partners will provide funding for the program and will provide internships and other hands-on opportunities for STEM students.

The program was hailed as an important collaboration that addresses significant economic and social needs.

"STEM plays a vital role in our growth strategy here in Massachusetts - a strategy focused on education, innovation and infrastructure," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I applaud UMass for recognizing the importance of STEM and look forward to working with our leaders at UMass and our community colleges to implement a successful program that will ensure that all of our students are prepared for careers in the 21st century global economy."

"As we encourage more students to pursue careers in STEM fields, it is imperative that we create lasting partnerships that will provide students with the right tools and resources to educate and motivate them to complete their STEM degrees," said Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council.  "I thank the University of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership for their leadership. We look forward to seeing immediate results from this initiative to build the pipeline for success."

"Pursuing efforts that set underrepresented minorities on the pathway to earn degrees that will allow them to develop careers in STEM-related fields is critical to the success of the Commonwealth and aligns perfectly with our mission of promoting job growth and competitiveness in Massachusetts," said Dan O'Connell, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. "We are dedicated to working with business leaders to collaborate and support the efforts by UMass and the state to move this important initiative forward."

"This is a fantastic opportunity for community college students to pursue four-year degrees in the critical STEM fields," said Charles F. Desmond, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. "We know from a recent UMass Donahue Institute analysis of College Board data that, among Massachusetts SAT takers, African American and Latino students show greater interest in certain STEM majors than white students. ABLE 4 STEM offers a way to leverage and build upon that interest through college transfer and job training."

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, who has highlighted the importance of STEM education, said; "In today's economy, a STEM education offers technical and research skills that open doors for students of color who want to be competitive leaders in the state's technology-based job market.  It is essential to the communities of color and Boston in particular that private and public partnerships dedicate their resources to diversifying the STEM-educated population."

The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, with lead business partners Suffolk Construction and Raytheon, will contribute to the effectiveness of the program by providing support to ensure the successful transition of students from community colleges to UMass.  MACP will provide opportunities for hands-on learning experiences and summer internships in the areas of green science and engineering, life sciences laboratory and field placements, and sustainable solutions.

In academic year 2011, 188 underrepresented minority students earned STEM degrees throughout the UMass system - which awarded 2,159 STEM bachelor's degrees in total.  Additionally, within the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts, 161 of the 1,322 associates degrees earned in the STEM majors were awarded to underrepresented minority students in 2011.

The ABLE 4 STEM Program will enhance efforts that the University of Massachusetts is already pursuing to increase degree attainment by underrepresented minority students.  Most notably, the UMass campuses that award bachelor's degrees in STEM fields participate in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which emphasizes persistence in STEM majors and STEM bachelor's degree attainment. 

About the Business-Higher Education Forum

BHEF is the nation's oldest organization of senior business and higher education executives dedicated to advancing innovative solutions to U.S. education and workforce challenges. Composed of Fortune 500 CEOs, prominent college and university presidents, and other leaders, BHEF addresses issues fundamental to our global competitiveness. It does so through two initiatives: the College Readiness, Access, and Success Initiative (CRI); and the Securing America's Leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative. BHEF and its members drive change locally, work to influence public policy at the national and state levels, and inspire other leaders to act. Learn more at

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-548-0238


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