The Diploma to College to Career Mismatch

Written By:  Reagan Flowers, PhD

It appears that minority students are less likely to enroll in college, remain in college, and are more likely to go directly to work post high school.  Factors impacting their choices to attend college are finances, access to opportunities, awareness, proper preparation, supportive networks, and exposure.  And for many minorities enrolled in college, they are first generation.

According to NCES, minority students are obtaining their high-school diplomas with completion rates in the U.S. for Hispanic’s being 76.3% and 72.5% for Black students. However, nationally these percentages are not representative of the number of minority students enrolling in colleges, 17% Hispanic and 14% Black.

The mismatch in the numbers does cause one to wonder how this has come to be.  I wonder if today’s high school graduates have determined that they will yield less of a return on their investment in a college degree if it is not in a STEM field.  Additionally, I wonder if high school graduates see more of an income advantage in forgoing a college degree and going directly to work in a blue-collar STEM field.  Looking further into gender numbers, there are more females enrolling in college than males.  The low enrollment numbers of males in college suggests that they experience more pressure to earn wages right after high school as opposed to females. The practicality of forgoing college long-term, in most instances, is not good. Such decisions create economic gaps and stagnation.

A growing trend are student success programs that colleges are putting in place to increase minority student enrollment and completion rates.  There are designated institutions such as HBCUs, MSIs, and HSIs that are intentionally and thoughtfully creating environments to improve their overall numbers.  And, there are groups such as AHSIEHBCU Faculty Development Network, and PennGSE Center for Minority Serving Institutions that are sharing best practices to help move the needle.

A recent presentation of C-STEMs research on minorities and females attitudes towards STEM education and careers at an AHSIE conference was fairly consistent with common themes being expressed by colleges from across the U.S.  We are not short on problems to solve, are working to eliminate the mismatches, and are increasingly using technology to identify and trigger responses to student academic and social challenges, sooner rather than later.

Brookings STEM Report

STEM Cell Economy Humor


The Brookings STEM Report offers an analysis of the occupational requirements for STEM knowledge.  How does “The Hidden STEM Economy” impact you?

stem_profile_thumb_16x9STEM Jobs

Prairie View A & M University of Texas Celebrates Women’s History Month

Thursday, 11:00 AM, March 7th at the John B. Coleman Library at Prairie View A & M University of Texas celebrates Women’s History Month:  “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in (STEM).”

Women’s History Month Flyer 2013 Dr.pdf FINAL COPYkmg 3-4-13

Colleges Evolving In Not Requiring SAT Test Scores For Admission Impact on High School Completion Requirements

Iterating Towards Success-it-should-be-fluid-and-always-evolving

With an increasing number of top ranking universities not requiring incoming students to submit SAT scores, is it plausible that we will see an increase in minority students applying to higher education institutions.

I was a student who worked hard and performed well in class but not on standardized tests.  Applying to an undergraduate university with an open admittance policy ensured that I would attend college. I entered college during a time when standardized tests were a key factor in determining admission, particularly the caliber of university you attended.  A period when it was almost frowned upon if you enrolled at a university that did not require an ACT or SAT Test score for admission.

In the 21st century, with the increase of on-line colleges and popularity among community colleges, it appears that the automatic favor shown towards competitive institutions is decreasing.

These developments have caused many colleges to adjust admission requirements to one or a combination of ACT, AP, IB or SAT subject tests and some have elected to become test-optional institutions altogether.  In doing so, institutions that have historically experienced small enrollments of minority students are starting to experience increases with such groups.  It will be interesting to see if these same institutions later report decreases in graduation rates as a result of these changes.

From my personal experience with achievement at the undergraduate and graduate level, I conclude that a student’s high school grade point average is as good an indicator as any in determining a student’s capacity to perform at the collegiate level.

With colleges changing their standardized test requirements, do you think school systems will phase out their standardized test requirements for high school completion?