Factors That Influence The Matriculation Into Graduate School Stem Programs

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America is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before. Today, more than half of all newborns are of color and some demographers predict that more than half all youth under the age of 18 will be of color before the end of this decade (Frey, 2011). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050, America will be a country without any clear racial or ethnic majority. Yet, our institutions of higher education do not reflect this rising demographic tide. America’s global leadership depends on gaining a competitive edge in an ever-expanding, diverse world economy that depends on the expertise of professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields. Yet universities continue to struggle to admit…show more content…
college-age population (2010). Together these three groups earned only 12% of the doctoral degrees awarded in 2012 (National Science Foundation, 2012). However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, URM students are just as likely to enroll in STEM studies as White and Asian students when they initially begin their undergraduate education, yet they are more likely to switch to non-science majors (2012).
Background Variables
Literature indicates background variables can be attributed to the racial and ethnic disparities in education. Background, or sometimes referred to as defining variables, refer to those factors that occur prior to students’ enrollment in post-secondary education that are expected to affect their academic outcomes (Wood & Williams, 2013). Students bring these variables with them upon entry into post-secondary education. Background variables for minority students that may affect their matriculation into STEM PhD programs include academic disadvantages and lower, socio-economic circumstances
Academic Disadvantages
One of the main barriers to college attainment is the alarmingly high, high school dropout rate among minority students; only 56 percent of Blacks and 54 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school (Green, 2002). Many of those that do graduate arrive to college academically underprepared. National studies have found the academic intensity of one’s high school curriculum to be one of the most important pre-collegiate factors
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