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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published October 03 2010

Higher education notebook: Fewer science, engineering majors in North Dakota

Census data released last week show that North Dakota ranks below the national average in the percentage of college graduates with degrees in science and engineering.

Of the estimated 108,000 North Dakotans 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees, 26 percent reported that their first major was in science and engineering, according to the 2009 American Community Survey.

Nationwide, 35 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher reported that their first major was in science and engineering.

Minnesota falls higher than North Dakota at 33 percent but is still slightly below the national average.

Richard Rathge, director of the North Dakota State Data Center, said the breakdown of degree fields shows how the states are positioned for economic development.

“If we don’t have the science and engineering degrees relative to what we see nationally, that means we’re less positioned for advancing our economy that would require those skill sets,” Rathge said.

However, North Dakota is advanced in other skill sets, Rathge said.

North Dakota ranks No. 1 in the percentage of people who hold associate’s degrees, with 11.4 percent, compared to 9.5 percent in Minnesota and 7.4 percent nationally.

Nationwide, 17.1 percent of people hold bachelor’s degrees, while in North Dakota it’s 19 percent and in Minnesota it’s 20.9 percent, Rathge said.

“Holistically, we have a very skilled labor pool relative to the nation,” Rathge said.

Grant aids re-enrolling

An $800,000 grant for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation will encourage former students to re-enroll and complete their degrees.

The grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education aims to raise college completion rates in Minnesota.

There are about 160,000 former students who attended a MnSCU college or university in the past 10 years and have 15 or more college credits.

The grant will fund a statewide outreach campaign to offer adults information on accelerated degree programs, online courses, credit for work experience and other options to help them complete degrees in a timely manner.

Press Club president

The president of the National Press Club visited Concordia College last week.

Alan Bjerga, a Concordia alumnus who writes for Bloomberg News and BusinessWeek magazine, spoke to students about careers in journalism.

“Journalism is a way to positively impact the world,” said Bjerga, who was in the area for the Eric Sevareid Symposium in Bismarck.

Record attendance

More than 500 people attended the North Dakota State University president’s state of the university address Thursday, setting a record, said spokeswoman Najla Amundson.

About 130 people watched an online webcast of Dean Bresciani’s speech.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590 or adalrymple@forumcomm.com