Education Department Data Shows That Colleges Need to Do Much More to Retain Black Students Who Major in the Sciences

Historically, blacks have been underrepresented in the so-called STEM fields which include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For example, only 0.5 percent of all African-American college students choose to major in the physical sciences. This is about one third the rate for white college students.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education documents retention and graduation rates for college students who entered STEM fields. The data shows that only 15.5 percent of black students who initially chose to major in a STEM field earned a bachelor’s degree within six years. In contrast, 30 percent of white students in STEM fields earned a bachelor’s degree within six years.

More than 35 percent of African-American college students who initially majored in a STEM field dropped out of college before they earned a degree. For whites, the dropout rate was 24.6 percent. Nearly a quarter of all black students who started out in a STEM field switched majors.