Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Black STEM pipelines from top U.S. institutions

Last update: Wednesday 5/18/16


More than a century ago in 1903 Dr. W. E. B. DuBois began a seminal essay titled "The Talented Tenth" with the following words:
"The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth ... "




In recent years substantial national attention has focused on the so-called lack of sufficient Black talent in the educational pipelines that lead to careers in information technology and other STEM fields. I say "so-called" because there is ample data that thousands of talented Black men and women received degrees in STEM fields from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) up until the 1960s; since then far greater numbers have taken advantage of the expanded opportunities offered by non-HBCUs as result of the Supreme Court's desegregation decision (1954) and the subsequent Civil Rights legislation (1960s).

IMHO recruiters who can't find enough Black tech talent are probably looking in the wrong places. In previous notes on this blog, I have suggested that it's useful to divide Black America's Talented Tenth into two groups: Bright Stars and Dark Stars. The Bright Stars have dazzling high school records -- straight A's, especially in math and science courses, impressive summer internships, creative class projects, enthusiastic letters of recommendation, etc, etc, etc. By contrast, the brilliance of the less fortunate Dark Stars is shrouded by high school records that are uneven at best, a reflection of the inadequate education they received from inadequate instructors at inadequate primary and secondary schools.

Nowadays less than ten percent of Black students attend HBCUs. Therefore recruiters will find at least 90 percent of the Bright Stars at non-HBCUs, giving special attention to the most affluent, highly rated schools that offer the most generous scholarships and other financial incentives. HBCUs still provide more nurturing environments for Black students in STEM, so they are still great places to find Dark Stars ... and some Bright Stars who place high value on the enhanced personal support.

The following interactive table provides Fall 2014 enrollment, Carnegie classifications, degrees, and graduation rates from the U.S. Department of Education's IPEDS Website for Black students at 101 of the nation's most prestigious STEM colleges and universities. These institutions were identified by high SAT math scores for their incoming freshmen, specifically a 600 score for the lowest quartile. In other words, 75 percent of their freshmen scored at least 600. Readers should examine this data closely enough to note that Black students graduated at more or less the same 6-year rates as the other students at these elite institutions ... :-)