While the state of Florida plans to charge less tuition for STEM majors, the Lyman Briggs College at MSU has been attracting students in these high-demand fields for more than 40 years without penalizing students in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, LBC is dedicated to bridging the gap between the hard sciences and the liberal arts.
The LBC began in 1967 in response to C.P. Snow’s famous concept that “Two Cultures” had grown up in academe, with the unfortunate results that education in what we now call the STEM subjects was often separated from education in the other “culture” of the humanities and social sciences.
The LBC welcomes about 625 freshmen each year, many of the honors students at MSU. The core curriculum includes calculus, general chemistry, physics, biology, and a three-course sequence in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science (HPS courses). Students take upper-division STEM courses in as many as 17 different majors and may choose to complete a capstone project that encompasses both major work and HPS classes.
Students have the benefit of much smaller classes, inquiry-based and research-oriented instruction, and frequent association with faculty and other STEM students who attend classes at LBC.
LBC students are eligible to become Undergraduate Learning Assistants as early as their sophomore year, giving them the opportunity to assist faculty with teaching and research. In addition, through MSU’s excellent honors college, there are 94 Professional Assistants at LBC who work on research-intensive projects.
The results: the freshman retention rate for LBC students is 95.5 percent. Some 82-86 percent graduate in six years, versus an MSU average of 74-76 percent–an exceptionally strong figure given the rigor of STEM studies. Nationally only about 50 percent of incoming STEM majors actually graduate with STEM degrees. For LBC students, the percentage is 70 percent, including a strong rate for female students and students of color.
Finally, the number of LBC grads pursuing post-graduate work is 80 percent, an extremely high number.