Katy Abel, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
617-994-6932 (office) or 617-429-2026 (cell)

For Immediate Release
November 20, 2013

MA Among Four States Chosen for National Push to Increase College Completion in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

Complete College America Cites Commonwealth's "Visionary Leadership" in Effort to Raise Graduation Rates in STEM Fields

BOSTON – Massachusetts has won a grant from Complete College America (CCA) to aid the state’s efforts to increase the number of college students who complete degree and certificate programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, the Department of Higher Education announced today. The technical assistance grants awarded to Massachusetts, three other states and the District of Columbia are supported by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“Governor Deval Patrick, Commissioner Richard Freeland, and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education have shown visionary leadership and an unwavering commitment to college completion,” Complete College America President Stan Jones said. “This ambitious plan will lead to more high-skilled, high-wage Massachusetts jobs by dramatically increasing the number of students with valuable STEM degrees. I’m confident that these efforts will not only strengthen Massachusetts, but they will serve as a blueprint for the rest of the country.”

The grant will allow nine Massachusetts public campuses to design academic innovations through CCA’s Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) in STEM Careers Initiative. The goal of GPS is to help students persist in their studies and then graduate into promising STEM careers. During the two-year period of the grant, Complete College America will provide technical expertise to nine public campuses – eight community colleges and one state university - to help them develop STEM completion goals and analyze local labor market conditions and workforce needs. The initiative builds on progress already made through the Vision Project, Massachusetts’ strategic agenda for public higher education, and the Transformation Agenda, a multi-year, $20 million dollar project financed by the U.S. Department of Labor to create new community college training programs aimed at unemployed or underemployed adults.

GPS quite literally offers navigational guidance as we move, through the Vision Project, toward our goal of national leadership among state systems of higher education,” said Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland. “The nature of our state’s economy demands that we ramp up the number of graduates who are prepared to take advantage of opportunities in STEM-related industries.”

GPS strategies include the use of academic “maps” to guide students from the start to the finish of their academic program, enabling them stay on track and complete their degrees without wasting time and money on courses that don’t advance their training in a particular STEM field. CCA will also assist campuses in creating integrated technology platforms to help advisors track student progress and performance. Massachusetts campuses will work collaboratively to design a new associate’s degree in STEM that would give students a solid foundation for transfer into a four-year program, where they could begin STEM coursework at an advanced level of study.

The following campuses will develop industry field “pathways” utilizing GPS:

Bristol Community College (Clean Energy, Biotech and Life Sciences)
Bunker Hill Community College (Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing/Engineering)
Cape Cod Community College (Information Technology)
Greenfield Community College (Health Care, Clean Energy)
Middlesex Community College (Advanced Manufacturing/Engineering)
Mount Wachusett Community College (Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing/Engineering, Biotech & Life Sciences)
Quinsigamond Community College (Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing/Engineering)

"Middlesex is honored to be part of CCA's pioneering initiatives that promote STEM degree completion,” said Carole A. Cowan, President of Middlesex Community College. “Our new Health & STEM Pathways Center supports and advises students as they prepare for careers in these critical fields. We hope this initiative will allow us to expand this successful model and grow the college's existing solid partnerships with businesses in STEM fields."

Today’s grant announcement follows Governor Deval Patrick’s November 13th release of “Expanding the Pipeline for All: Massachusetts' Plan for Excellence in STEM Education." This version 2.0 strategic plan ties economic development to teaching and learning in the STEM fields, with the goal of achieving the following statewide goals:

1. Increase student interest in STEM areas;
2. Increase student achievement among all Pre-K-12 students in order to prepare graduates to be civically and college and/or career ready;
3. Increase the percentage of skilled educators who teach Pre-K-16 STEM classes;
4. Increase the percent of students completing post-secondary degrees or certificates in STEM subjects; and
5. STEM degrees and certificate attainment will be aligned with corresponding opportunity in STEM-related fields to match the state’s workforce needs for a STEM talent pipeline.

Massachusetts has been recognized by the National Governor’s Association’s Center for Best Practices, Change the Equation and Innovate+Education as a national leader in STEM education, a result of the Patrick Administration’s strategic investments in programs and initiatives that are developing a highly skilled workforce, fostering economic development and ultimately positioning the Commonwealth as a leader in the 21st century innovation-based global economy.