Black Students in STEM

In 2015, US News did a study they call the STEM index, looking at the demographics of people holding degrees and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, aka STEM fields. The results weren’t thrilling; progress on shrinking the notorious disparities of race and gender in STEM careers seems to have been stalled since around 2000.

There are plenty of initiatives around to encourage women to take STEM paths and positions, but a greater gap is almost entirely overlooked – black students. As of 2017, only 6 percent of African-Americans will hold bachelor’s degrees or better in the STEM subjects.

Obviously, there are many forces at work in this problem, but one of them is student discouragement. We know it happens early—in fact a new study suggests that many students are nudged away from the ‘hard sciences’ as young as kindergarten. But universities still have hope of being part of the solution.

Today, programs at Morgan State and nearby University of Maryland are focusing on piquing interest in STEM careers with intense recruiting programs, offers of support, and scholarships.

At Morgan State University, their ASCEND program has been a wild success, coming up tops in the US for producing black engineers, and they did that through a combination of academic support and funding of original research projects. They hope to spread their model to other colleges, starting with the 3% of US colleges which are historically black.

University of Maryland has the number two slot with their Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which seeks out minority high school students with high potential and connects them with financial aid and faculty mentors.

Both of these programs have high hopes for the future, and have attracted White House attention. Their growth and the success of their cause can only do good things for the future of the American workforce.

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