Raising the Bar: Strategies to Improve STEM Graduation Rates as an Administrator

Ginelle Testa

Higher education administration plays a pivotal role in shaping students' future success in the fast-evolving realm of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. This article explores five effective strategies to enhance STEM graduation rates. 

From providing research experiences to fostering inclusivity through DEI initiatives, forging partnerships, promoting service learning, leveraging technology like Labster virtual labs, encouraging faculty professional development, and utilizing the data, unlock the potential for a thriving generation of STEM graduates at your institution. 

1. Create opportunities for research experience

Engaging college students in scientific research early on is a powerful tool for boosting STEM graduation rates. Administrators should collaborate with faculty to design and implement research-focused courses or programs. Research experiences deepen students' understanding of their chosen field and provide them with practical skills and a sense of ownership over their academic journey. 

Working on research projects can inspire students, giving them a glimpse of the exciting possibilities that lie ahead in their STEM careers. A study found courses that engage college students in conducting scientific research early on can dramatically increase students’ odds of completing a STEM degree.

2. Promote diversity initiatives

Black college students continue to leave STEM fields at higher rates than their white peers. According to an Educational Researcher study of undergraduates, 40% of black students switch out of STEM majors, compared with 29% of white students.

Creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all students pursuing STEM degrees is vital. Administrators should invest in programs and resources that promote diversity and address the unique challenges faced by underrepresented groups in STEM fields. 

3. Forge public and private-sector partnerships

Collaborating with public and private organizations is an excellent way to enrich the learning experience for STEM students. Establishing partnerships with industry leaders, research institutions, and non-profit organizations can open doors to internships, co-op programs, and real-world projects for students. 

These opportunities not only enhance students' knowledge and skills but also expose them to potential career paths. Additionally, such partnerships often lead to valuable insights for educational institutions, aligning the curriculum with current industry demands and ensuring graduates are well-prepared for the job market.

4. Provide chances for service learning

According to an analysis at CSU, service learning, as a high-impact practice, increases students' chances of staying in school and graduating in a timely manner. Administrators should encourage and facilitate community engagement projects that enable students to apply their STEM knowledge to address real-world challenges. 

By participating in service learning activities, students develop a sense of purpose and connection to the larger community, leading to increased motivation and dedication to completing their STEM degrees. Moreover, these experiences can foster a sense of responsibility to use their skills for the betterment of society, leading to more socially conscious and committed STEM graduates.

5. Provide instructors with helpful technology

Utilizing technology to enhance the learning experience is crucial in modern education, especially in STEM fields. Labster virtual labs are an excellent example of technology that can significantly impact STEM graduation rates. By incorporating Labster as a pre-lab assignment, students can access immersive and interactive virtual lab simulations, enabling them to practice fundamental lab skills and reinforce their understanding of scientific concepts. 

Peer-reviewed research found that students who use Labster as a pre-lab assignment are 5.4x more likely to say they plan to continue taking STEM courses. This technology reinforces students' knowledge and fosters their enthusiasm for the subject matter, leading to improved persistence.

6. Encouraging faculty professional development

As the backbone of the academic experience, faculty members wield significant influence over students' learning journeys. Administrators can further elevate STEM education by prioritizing faculty professional development. Faculty members can refine their teaching techniques and stay abreast of the latest advancements in their fields by providing opportunities for ongoing training, workshops, and collaboration with industry experts. 

This investment in faculty development enriches the classroom experience and fosters a supportive learning environment that inspires students to excel in their STEM pursuits. Educators who are equipped with the best tools and practices can nurture the next generation of STEM graduates with unparalleled expertise and dedication.

7. Utilize the data

We spoke with Phil Ollenberg, a higher education leader in admissions and enrollment, and he shared, “Modern data analytics allow institutions to identify individual courses, semesters, sites, and even delivery modes where students struggle with lower grades, poorer attendance, or more late assignments. Using these data, administrators can target supplemental instruction, mentorship, and other intervention programs to the right locations, potentially within days of these dips occurring.


Higher education administration, in collaboration with instructors, holds the key to unlocking the full potential of STEM education and shaping successful graduates.

Curious about how Labster virtual labs can enhance your program and institution? Get pricing based on your needs.
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