In this issue:
Managing Editor:Yolanda S.
Making Strides is a free, quarterly (April, July, October, and January) research newsletter published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Directorate for Education and Human Resources Program. Its purpose is to share information about minority graduate education in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering. It is available in print and electronic format. Inquiries, information related to AGEP, and all correspondence should be sent to the editor.
|Are Minority Graduates with
Recently Acquired Science and Engineering Degrees Continuing their Education
By John Tsapogas, Senior Analyst, National Science Foundation, Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, Division of Science Resources Studies
The 1990s was a very important decade for minority participation in science and engineering. An increasing number of underrepresented minorities were attending college and obtaining undergraduate degrees in science and engineering. But what were these graduates doing after they received their bachelorís degrees? Were they continuing their education by enrolling in graduate school after obtaining their bachelorís or masterís degrees? If they had not continued their graduate education, what were their plans for the future? Were they more likely or less likely to attend graduate school in the future?
When analyzing college graduates with science and engineering degrees and their propensity to continue their education by enrolling in graduate school it is also important to understand the changes in the labor markets, the overall economy, and the large impact these conditions have on the decisions graduates make regarding their careers.
During a period of large economic expansion and job growth such as the mid to late 1990s, college graduates in general are more likely to choose to enter the workforce and less likely to continue their education by enrolling in graduate school. If they choose to continue their education they are also more likely to do it on a part-time basis. During periods of economic slowdowns we usually see a reverse trend. Graduates are more likely during those periods to enter graduate school.
What happened in the 1990s to graduates with S&E degrees--especially minority graduates? Looking at data* from the National Science Foundationís National Survey of Recent College Graduates we can examine the status of recent graduate participation for continuing their graduate education and the relative differences for each of the racial/ethnic categories. We define enrollment in graduate school very loosely as simply ďtaking coursesĒ. We chose this definition because it allows us to include all graduates regardless of their commitment to an advanced degree. By doing so we include those graduates who are working full-time and taking courses on a part-time basis together with graduates who are not employed and pursuing graduate study on a full time basis. We include graduates enrolled in a degree program as well as those taking courses for work-related reasons. (See Table 1)
Despite an improvement in the economy and increases in overall job growth
we saw an increase in graduate school enrollments for S&E graduates
that recently received bachelorís degrees. The percent of all recent
science and engineering (S&E) bachelorís graduates that enrolled in
graduate school between 1993 and 1997 increased slightly from 47.4 percent
to 48.2 percent.
|Asians with S&E bachelorís degrees were the most likely to attend
graduate school and had the largest increase in graduate participationó55.5
percent of Asians entered graduate study in 1993 increasing to 60.7 percent
in 1997. Hispanic S&E bachelorís recipients were the next most likely
group to enter graduate school. The percent of Hispanics enrolled in graduate
study increased from 51.3 percent in 1993 to 51.5 percent in 1997. Blacks
showed a significant percentage increase in enrolling in graduate school
after receiving their bachelorís degree, albeit, from a smaller base.
They increased from 45.3 percent of the 53,799 1991 and 1992 bachelorís
degree recipients to 49 percent of the 48,482 1995 and 1996 bachelorís
degree recipients. Whites as a group attended graduate school at a lower
rate than all other racial/ethnic groups and the percent of white graduates
that attended graduate school remained about the same.
The pattern for S&E masterís degree holders showed a somewhat different pattern during the period. The overall number of recent S&E masterís recipients continuing their graduate study decreased nominally from 41.7 percent to 41.3 percent. Whites and Blacks increased their rates of enrollment in graduate study. Whites increased from 39.8 percent to 40.1 percent and Blacks increased significantly from 40.3 percent in 1993 to 45.6 percent in 1997. Hispanics and Asians with recent S&E masterís degrees showed a decrease in their rate of enrollment in graduate school. Hispanics decreased significantly from 54.2 percent in 1993 to 40.9 percent in 1997 while Asians decreased from 47.4 percent in 1993 to 44.5 percent in 1997.
It is unclear why Hispanic and Asian participation in graduate study after attainment of a masterís degree has decreased during the period. It is conceivable that Asian and Hispanic graduates are less willing to give up an opportunity for higher paying jobs that the current economy is providing them. If this is true why are Blacks and Whites not also responding to these changes? The answer may lie in the fact that within Blacks and Whites there are large numbers of graduates with degrees in fields like the social sciences and psychology, fields where the doctorate is the terminal degree.
Graduates that did not attend graduate school after receiving their degrees in 1993 and 1997 were asked how likely it was for them to enroll in graduate school at some time in the future. They were asked to respond whether it was very likely, somewhat likely, or unlikely to enroll in college at some point in the future. As a group graduates who reported that it was very likely that they would enroll at some point in the future decreased from 68.9 percent in 1993 to 63.9 percent in 1997. Whites and Blacks accounted for all of the decrease while Hispanics and Asians reported an increase in the percent very likely to enroll in graduate school at some time in the future. Graduates as a whole reported that they are somewhat likely to attend graduate school in the future with Whites and Blacks showing an increase in the percent reporting ďsomewhat likelyĒ between 1993 and 1997 and Hispanics and Asians showing a decrease. Somewhat surprising was the increase in the number of graduates who reported that they are very unlikely to attend graduate school between 1993 and 1997. The percent of graduates that reported future attendance in graduate school as very unlikely rose from 7 percent in 1993 to 8.7 percent in 1997. All racial/ethnic groups showed increases except for Hispanics who reported a decrease in the number of graduates that were very unlikely to attend graduate school. Although the data demonstrate that large numbers of graduates with bachelorís and masterís degrees intend to continue their graduate studies, a small and increasing number of Whites, Asians, and Blacks reported that they are very unlikely to do so. (See Table 2)
These data have provided us with a good understanding of what occurred
in the 1990s and a view towards the likelihood of underrepresented minority
participation in S&E graduate study in the future. The data show that
during the 1990s some groups, such as Blacks with S&E bachelorís and
masterís degrees have performed well in terms of their participation in
continuing graduate studies and others such as Hispanics with S&E masterís
degrees showed a weaker than expected performance in graduate school enrollment.
The data also show that the numbers of graduates reporting that it is very
unlikely that they will attend graduate school is increasing. These
indicators provide us with valuable information for charting the future
course of minority participation in S&E graduate studies and may give
us some insight on how much needs to be done to increase minority participation
in science and engineering.