Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Why Historically Black Colleges and Universities Are Successful with Graduating Black Baccalaureate Students Who Subsequently Earn Doctorates in STEM (Editor's Commentary)

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Why Historically Black Colleges and Universities Are Successful with Graduating Black Baccalaureate Students Who Subsequently Earn Doctorates in STEM (Editor's Commentary)

Article excerpt

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and science and engineering (S&E), represented similarly in the research, describe a set of college majors, occupations and learning contexts that promote scientific, computational and technological advancements. African Americans are significantly less likely than White Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans to earn doctorates in life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and computer science, and engineering (National Science Foundation & National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2017).

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) share a common mission to provide and increase educational opportunities for underserved communities and are uniquely positioned to increase the pipeline of Black students who go on to pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM. Although HBCUs represent 3% of the nation's institutions of higher learning, they remain among the nation's top baccalaureate-origin institutions for a significant proportion of African American S&E doctoral recipients (Fiegener & Proudfoot, 2013). In 2010, the National Research Council noted the effectiveness of HBCUs in increasing participation and success of minority students in S&E fields, evidenced by their ability to graduate a larger percentage of African American students than predominantly White institutions (PWIs; National Research Council, 2010).

According to a 2013 report from National Science Foundation, 21 of the top 50 institutions for producing Black graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in S&E are HBCUs (Fiegener & Proudfoot, 2013). Among the 29 PWIs, all but four have a Carnegie classification of "Very High Research Activity" or "Research One" (R1). Among the HBCUs, none have a Carnegie classification of "Very High Research Activity" and only two have a classification of "High." None of the PWIs, such as Georgia State University (Black enrollment = 14,039), Troy University (Black enrollment = 8,694), and University of Memphis (Black enrollment = 8,337), which are known to have a Black enrollment that is larger than most single HBCUs, made the top 50. Per the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), 137 nonprofit fouryear PWIs have a Black enrollment that is greater than the HBCU average Black enrollment of 2,629, however only four of them are on the top 50 list. In total, among the top 50 institutions, HBCUs collectively produced 1,819 Black graduates who earned a doctorate in S&E, PWIs produced 1,600 Black graduates, and foreign institutions produced 798 Black graduates.

Further research is necessary to answer a simple, yet very important question: How do HBCUs, which generally have smaller enrollments and fewer resources, achieve success in graduating Black students who earn doctorates in S&E at a pace only observed among the nation's Research 1 (R1) institutions? Obvious institutional characteristics, such as size and research designation, do not distinguish HBCUs that appear on the NSF list from HBCUs and PWIs that did not. Therefore, research is necessary for national efforts to reveal unique factors associated with diversifying the S&E workforce, that have only been observed in HBCUs of diverse Carnegie classifications and a uniform group PWIs comprised mostly of R1 institutions.

The 21 HBCUs on the NSF top 50 list for graduating students that go on to earn S&E doctorates are (in order of ranking): Howard University, Spelman College, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Southern University and A&M College, Tuskegee University, Jackson State University, Tennessee State University, Alabama A&M University, Clark Atlanta University, Prairie View A&M University, Tougaloo College, Norfolk State University, North Carolina Central University, Grambling State University, Dillard University, and Fisk University. …

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