The numbers of bioscience bachelors’ degrees awarded by Florida State University System (SUS) institutions has exploded during the last decade, even though the economic power of these degrees is limited at best. Meanwhile, the rates at which the system has awarded bachelors’ degrees in more lucrative STEM fields – computer, engineering and physical science fields – have stagnated or even declined.
An op-ed published in the August 10 issue of the Tallahassee Democrat (and reproduced here) and the above plot describe this situation in more detail.
Which of the SUS institutions are most responsible for these trends?
The University of Florida is the SUS institution that produces by far the largest number of bachelors’ degrees in engineering and biosciences. The reason for this is not that UF awards the largest number of bachelors’ degrees in total – it doesn’t. UCF, USF, and even FSU awarded more bachelors’ degrees in 2012-2013 than UF did. Instead, the percentages of total UF bachelors’ degrees that are awarded in engineering and the biosciences are much larger than the corresponding percentages at other SUS institutions.
In 2012-2013, 12.2% of all UF bachelors’ degrees were awarded in engineering. The nearest competitor in the SUS was UCF at 6.3%.
In the same year, biosciences accounted for 9.7% of all UF bachelors’ degrees, while USF ranked second in this category at 7.7%.
While the large percentage of engineering degrees awarded by UF has been fairly constant during the last decade, UF’s high rate of production of bioscience degrees is a recent phenomenon.
As recently as 2007-2008, only 3% of UF’s bachelors’ degrees were awarded in the biosciences. That rate has more than tripled since then.
The above plot of UF bachelor’s degree production also shows another interesting result – the zeroing-out of the production of degrees in computer fields. Most other SUS institutions award between 1.5% and 4% of their bachelors’ degrees in computer fields.
UF has certainly not been alone in rapidly growing its bioscience bachelor’s degree production. FGCU, FIU, FSU and UCF have also experienced rapid increases in the percentages of bachelors’ degrees they award in the biosciences.
In 2003-2004, 8.2% of the bachelors’ degrees awarded by FAMU were in engineering. By 2012-2013 that rate had dropped to just 2.3%. FAMU awards engineering degrees through the joint FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, which is presently the subject of a legislative study after an attempt to split the college during the 2014 session.
The statistics in this post come from the Interactive University Data page on the web site of the Florida Board of Governors. The bioscience numbers are the totals for all bachelor’s degree programs under CIP code 26; for engineering, CIP code 14; for computer fields, CIP code 11; and for physical sciences, CIP code 40.