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Factors Affecting African American Persistence In The Sciences

2961 words - 12 pages

In the past, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) were able to increase the number of African Americans in science by producing as many African American scientists as the field would allow (Hines 4). These universities have continued to play a crucial role in assisting America overcome the shortage of scientist who are vital to the economic growth of the country (Suitts 205). Despite a lack of funding and a lack of public interest, these educational institutions continue to produce a large portion of U.S. African American graduates in the STEM fields (Suitts 205). In 2000, HBCUs were responsible for graduating 40% of the African American students in America who received a bachelor’s degree in the biological science, and more than 40% of the African American students who received degrees in the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, environmental sciences, and mathematics) (Suitts 205). In almost every STEM field, HBCUs lead the nation’s larger, much more resourceful universities in producing African American graduates. Person addresses the issue of discrepancies between HBCUs and Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) in his book Beyond Small Numbers: Voices of African American PhD Chemist. He argues that the professional experiences of African Americans in HBCUs versus PWIs are notably different. African Americans in HBCUs receive more affirmation of abilities, and social support but do not receive the same quantity of resources as African American attending PWI’s. While African Americans at major research PWI’s often benefit from the availability of resources, which may not be possible at a HBCU (Pearson xviii). Nevertheless, those that graduate from HBCUs are more likely to persist to graduate school and complete their doctoral degree than African Americans that attended PWIs. This evidence suggest that a solid support system and encouragement are more important than monetary resources.
HBCUs receive little recognition for their national role in educating African American youth, and receive little in the form of monetary support, making it difficult to provide the same amount of resources as PWIs. In the 1990s, HBCUs received less than 2% of 140 billion in federal grants awarded to American institutions of higher education in the science and engineering programs. They also receive very few grants from private foundations, and even less support from those foundations that give regularly to the sciences. Steve Suitts from the Southern Education Foundation attributes the lack of support to four key reasons. Firstly, many foundations support institutions based on geographic location, and few of those are in the South, where most HBCUs are located. Secondly, HBCUs do not gain the reputation needed to get financial support because they often have a hard time competing against the more well-funded PWIs. Thirdly, there is no commonly established relationship between PWIs and HBCUs to promote research opportunities for the...

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