Expanding Minority Participation in Graduate Education
Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Citing Graduate Education: Backbone of American Competitiveness and Innovation, released in April 2007 by the Council of Graduate Schools' Advisory Committee on Graduate Education and American Competitiveness (CGS), we focus on the United State's need to attract the best and brightest graduate students from around the world.
This article focuses on the second of the report's "main assumptions" regarding the role of advanced education in U.S. competitiveness and innovation. The report holds that more participation in graduate studies is needed from underrepresented minority groups in order for our country to reach its potential in this global marketplace.
The demographics of the population of the United States constantly evolve, leading to ever-greater diversity. According to the CGS report, the United States needs citizens from all these diverse backgrounds to seek graduate education if it is to compete in the world economy. In terms of the study, "minority groups" include women and all underrepresented minorities, including those determined by ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Women from minority groups are the most underrepresented students, according to the report.
Some organizations have already started to address this issue by conducting research and funding programs aimed at attracting minority students to graduate school. The Leadership Alliance consists of more than 30 leading research and teaching institutions in the United States. The Alliance strives to increase the number of minorities enrolling in graduate school to earn master's and doctoral degrees.
The Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program begins at the undergraduate level, mentoring minority students and encouraging them to continue their education. Underrepresented students get the chance to work for up to 10 weeks alongside a faculty or research mentor.
Funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program gives grants to more than 150 U.S. and Puerto Rican higher education institutions. The grants are given to low-income and minority undergraduates who are likely to go on to earn doctoral degrees, and who want to teach at a college or university level.
Some possible solutions
The CGS report makes several recommendations on how to get more underrepresented students involved in graduate education. Universities, for instance, should adopt better practices aimed at the reduction of attrition. They can also create programs in which a degree can be attained in a shorter amount of time.
The report suggests that universities make accommodations that will enable women to study for a graduate degree while still running a household and family. In addition, universities should document and address the insufficient financial aid resources currently being offered to students. The report proposes that the financial aid provided by universities, due to timing, leaves some students with no financial assistance for certain periods. A possible reason for this time-lag may be state budget limitations.
Other groups that can make a difference in increasing the participation of minority students in graduate education are business leaders and policymakers. If business leaders recognize and voice the importance of a workforce that is diverse, more minority students may be inclined to enter graduate school. As for policymakers, the report calls for them to give underrepresented students a reason to want to attend graduate school. Some type of incentive program may be in order.
Because the work and research that graduate students do positively impacts the country, the government should be very interested in keeping graduate classes full. In light of the diversity of not only our country but of the world economy, attracting minority students is crucial to the success of the American workforce. However, if the country is to make use of the untapped resource of minority students, education has to be made affordable and worthwhile.
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