Community colleges provide a strong foundation for the nation's graduating STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) workforce. In its latest Geoscience Currents, the American Geosciences Institute documents the flow of geoscience students from 2-year to 4-year institutions in Texas, adding to an earlier report on similar data from California released in 2012.
Community colleges are a key part of many four-year university students' post-secondary education pathways. According to AGI's 2011 Status of the Geoscience Workforce report, within the science and engineering disciplines, 67% of Bachelor's degree recipients, 58% of Master's degree recipients and 44% of Doctorates attended community college. Furthermore, within the geosciences, 52% of Bachelor's degree recipients, 40% of Master's degree recipients, and 21% of Doctorates attended community colleges.
Direct support for geoscience students has been rising for the last two years. The trend looks to continue in 2008-2009 with a projected 6% increase in available funds. These opportunities for student support include funds from government agencies (60%) and non-profit societies (40%, which includes support from private foundations and companies).
The number of NSF Graduate Fellowships awarded to geoscience students has fallen 22% between 2005 and 2007 while the total budget has remained stable at $40.5 million. However, geoscience students continue to earn over 3% of the total awards, which is higher than the 2.5% of all Ph.D. students studying geoscience. The rate of decline of the number of geoscience fellowships is slightly higher than the total reduction in the number of awards given during the same 3-year period, which was 10%.
Geoscience starting salaries were competitive with other science and engineering fields in 2007. Bachelors geoscience graduates, generally employed in the environmental and hydrology industry, earned an average of $31,366 p.a. compared to $31,258 for life scientists and $32,500 for chemistry students.
The average salaries for geoscientists in 2005 varied by years of experience. For geoscientists employed for 0-2 years, the average salary was $74,000, a 9.7% increase over 2004’s average. Geoscientists employed for 20-24 years earned an average of $139,000, which was more than a 23% increase over 2004 salaries.
The number of students enrolled in the geosciences in US colleges and universities remained relatively steady in 2007 based on preliminary numbers, with 19,216 undergraduates and 7,944 graduate students enrolled.
Degrees granted in 2007 remained steady, except for new doctorates, which increased sharply by over 30%. This sharp increase mirrors the influx of entering graduate students in 2003 and 2004 following the collapse of the dot-com boom. However, given the graduate enrollment profile since 2003, this increase in doctorate production will be short-lived.
The steep increase in the price of crude oil in the United States remains a headline issue, along with the falling US dollar. The drop in the dollar has caused concern in oil-producing countries which use it as the economic basis for the commodity, and often their currency. The chart below shows the spot market price of crude oil per barrel (BBL) in US dollars and in euros from 2001 to today. The price of oil has grown faster relative to the dollar than to the euro. Yet, a portion of the rise in oil prices is due to the fall of the value of the dollar.
As for January 2008, there were 12,354 geoscience faculty employed in geoscience departments at US colleges and universities, compared to 13,554 in 1999. The numbers of Emeritus and Assistant Professors remained the same over this time, but the number of all other faculty dropped. Currently, 56% of all faculty are tenured, while 19% are untenured, but in tenure-track positions.