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Lack of Minority Representation in Science and Engineering Endangering ­.s. Economic Health

By HPC Wire

July 31, 2012

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Many of the "precious few" minority students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees are either dropping out or changing majors, says Rice University professor Richard Tapia.

He notes that those students who do stick with a STEM major often encounter a "sink or swim" culture and have no support mechanisms from university officials, causing them to lose confidence or migrate to other majors. "We depend too much on minority-serving institutions to solve the under-representation problem, but all universities must be a part of the solution," Tapia says.

He notes the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that Hispanics, which currently are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, continue to be the least educated. “Our concern with under-representation today does not stem from moral or ethical issues,” Tapia says. “It’s a simple matter of the nation’s survival."

He contends the economic health of the United States is based in large measure upon technical advances, so the country must find a way to incorporate the growing population of under-represented minorities into the mainstream of scientific and technical endeavors.

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