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Why black students struggle with science

Why black students struggle with science
Janelle Richards, The Grio | March 24, 2011

Black undergrads are struggling in science. It’s a myth that they don’t like the subject, or just aren’t interested.

In fact, in their freshman year of college, black and Hispanic students have the same degrees of interest in science careers as their white peers, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

But black and Hispanic students are less likely than white and Asian students to major in or obtain a doctoral degree in science career fields, a study from the commission found.

In 2000, black students in science and engineering fields received about 35,000 bachelor’s degrees. In 2009, the number had gradually increased to about 45,000, compared to about 540,000 recipients from all races and ethnicities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“The real wealth generators in today’s global economy are people with technical skills. A recent report by the U.S.Labor Department suggests that over the next 10 years, the need for technical people in this country is going to grow by 50 percent,” Robin Willner, vice president of Global Community Initiatives for IBM said in the commission’s report.

Black students struggle for different reasons; some say they feel isolated in the classroom at universities, get left behind with the coursework, or don’t have a strong connection with their professors.

Jayson Stone, 22, entered University of Maryland, College Park as a computer engineering major in the fall of 2006.

“I did engineering for two years, but I kind of didn’t like it,” Stone said. “I decided I was better suited for business aspirations I also had, so I switched to economics.”

Stone was valedictorian of his Baltimore high school; he was involved on Maryland’s college campus and describes himself as an extrovert. Math was his favorite subject since he was young, but his engineering courses in his freshman year of college shocked him.  (Read more)