Professor Explores Barriers for Minority Youth Pursuing STEM Degrees

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Professor Explores Barriers for Minority Youth Pursuing STEM Degrees

A cutthroat grading system. Daunting professors. Lack of preparation in the early grades.


And, on top of it all, a sense of alienation.


These are just a handful of reasons why it’s difficult for colleges and universities to retain students of color in the STEM fields, says Jennie Park-Taylor, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education.


Last year, Park-Taylor and her research team began conducting a pilot project on urban minority youth and young adults and their engagement in STEM education. They’re trying to pinpoint why so many underrepresented minority students drop out of STEM majors and identify possible points of intervention.


Researchers have already addressed the issue from a quantitative lens: dropout data, student enrollment numbers, retention rates. Nationwide, 71 percent of Latino students intending to earn a STEM degree fail to complete their program within six years, according to a study out of UCLA. For black students, the non-completion rate is even higher—78.2 percent. Another study in the journal Plos One says that women of any race are 1.5 times more likely to leave the STEM pipeline after taking Calculus I in college, compared to men.

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