- A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found the roots of income inequality for black graduates begins in their selection of a major, with just 7% of black students choosing STEM fields.
- University Business reports black students report interest in STEM fields at equal rates as their white peers but many are less prepared for these majors because of the quality of their high school education.
- The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering recommends addressing the “preparedness gap” with summer bridge programs, mentoring, and targeted academic supports.
According to New America, 22% of the nation’s black STEM graduates come from historically black colleges and universities. That is an outsized contribution to STEM fields from a tiny sliver of the higher education sector. Other colleges and universities would do well to learn from their techniques in helping black students interested in science, technology, engineering, or math succeed in the field. The propensity towards "weeding out" students from STEM majors at many top institutions stands in stark contrast to the tendency to nurture students' abilities at HBCUs and significantly dwindles the pool of students tracked into these majors. Coupled with already-disproportionately low acceptance rates of black students at top research institutions, this presents a mismatch in the number of black scientists graduating from these institutions. And while the Georgetown research focuses on black students, the center’s chief economist said the same mismatch could be found about many other ethnic and racial groups.
Researchers have found that women, too, go into fields that are lower-paying, even within the STEM spectrum. And beyond that, a comprehensive, longitudinal study shows that when women enter fields in large numbers, compensation goes down, even after controlling for education and skill. The field is actually devalued by the gender shift. While colleges and universities can’t control the entire labor market, they can contribute to greater equality with more support for students at the point of major selection.