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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN 7 NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS ESTIMATED NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS The National Scholars Program should set a goal of doubling the number of underparticipating minorities earning a Ph.D. in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering each year. It is our proposal, therefore, that the program produce 235 minority Ph.D.s in those fields every year. The committee agreed on this stated additional number of Ph.D.s in the pertinent fields because it would be a significant indicator of progress. The committee then worked backward to calculate how many students should participate in the program at each level in order to reach the numerical goal. The feasibility of each of the intermediate goals was also examined. For example, it compared the current number of students earning B.S. degrees in science and engineering with the proposed increment. That process led the committee to propose that 750 students should enter the National Scholars Program as freshmen. Supplemented by 225 students entering as sophomores and juniors, that total of 975 undergraduate National Scholars would produce approximately 725 bachelor's degree recipients, 362 doctoral study entrants, and 235 Ph.D.s. The committee based these projections on the following estimates of persistence: 74 percent of undergraduate National Scholars graduating from college with a degree in the pertinent fields 50 percent of bachelor's degree recipients entering doctoral study in the pertinent fields at an NSP institution 65 percent of those doctoral study entrants earning a Ph.D. At these rates, the overall completion rate for all those National Scholars who begin the program through the Ph.D. would be 24 percent. We recognize that these are optimistic numbers, even though the program is specifically designed to choose the right students and keep them on track to the Ph.D. Student attrition at all levels will need to be closely monitored and, if necessary, additional students admitted to the program at the undergraduate and/or graduate level. These estimates include a provision for replacement students, i.e., admission of a limited number of students as rising sophomores and juniors. Of the estimated 30 percent of the entering freshman cohort that would not complete the program, we expect
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN attrition to be highest in the first year and decline thereafter. For purposes of overall program estimates, we suggest that the attrition rate will be 15 percent in the freshman year, 10 percent the next, 5 percent in the junior year, and 3 percent in the senior year. We propose that an additional 30 percent—or 225 students—be admitted after the freshman year, to account for normal attrition. An alternative approach would simply be to admit many more freshmen to the program, say 1000, but we believe this is an unrealistically high number. Although the National Scholars Program is designed to identify and work with very talented students who are well prepared to study science and mathematics in college, the number of such students is not large. As noted previously, highly competitive and demanding programs such as the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Project SPACE at Morehouse College typically require participants to have SAT mathematics scores no lower than 600. However, in 1994 only 3,800 Black and 2,500 Mexican American youth earned SAT-M scores of 600 or higher. Once the program is fully implemented and reaches steady state, the number of students at each level would be 3,048 undergraduate students (750 freshmen, 763 sophomores, 787 juniors, and 748 seniors) and 1,810 doctoral students (362 students per year for five years). These estimates would result in an average number of students ranging from 100 to 150 undergraduates and from 60 to 90 doctoral students in each of 20 to 30 consortiums. However, since individual consortiums might be configured in very different ways and with wide variation in the number of departments, colleges, and universities participating, these averages are not intended to establish limits for the size of consortiums. For several reasons, we have recommended that 20 to 30 consortiums be established. First, that number is large enough to give National Scholars a range of choice among institutions and to permit development of a variety of consortium models. In addition, it allows for the participation of a significant number of institutions and organizations. From an administrative perspective, 20 to 30 consortiums is also a reasonable number. Moreover, although we are concerned about critical mass, we must also consider whether the number of students is manageable for individual institutions. For example, a large university could accommodate an additional 30 or more undergraduates and 15 doctoral students in the physical sciences and engineering each year. Other colleges could not handle these numbers, although they could work very effectively with a smaller group of students. DISCUSSION ISSUES We have based our estimates on a review of available data on persistence rates for all students in science and engineering, for minority students, and for minority students in programs that are comparable in some respects with the proposed National Scholars Program. However, reliable information on persistence rates is both scarce and difficult to interpret and inadequate in several respects. Thus we must stress that these estimates are also based on the committee's collective knowledge and experience with specific programs that target well-prepared minority students. With these caveats in mind, it is useful to review both national data and the
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN experience of specific programs. In 1992, AAAS issued a report on the status of minorities in science that characterized a natural sciences and engineering pipeline showing that of every 40 college freshmen who plan to major in science and engineering, only 0.35—or about 0.8 percent—of entering freshmen earn a Ph.D. (AAAS 1992). This percentage may be compared with 2.9 percent of non-minority freshmen who attain a Ph.D. Astin and Astin found that about 60 percent of students who entered a four-year college or university intending to major in science and engineering graduated four years later with a degree in these fields (Astin and Astin 1992). A greater proportion of minority students chose science and engineering as freshmen, but their attrition was higher than that for other students. The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) has reported troubling statistics. Their figures show that about two-thirds of non-minority engineering students complete their undergraduate degrees in engineering, compared to 39 percent of minorities (Morrison, Griffin, and Marcotullio 1995). At the doctoral level, there is evidence that minorities with a bachelor 's degree in science and engineering who subsequently earn a Ph.D. are less likely to stay in those fields than are other students. In 1992 less than one-half of Black Ph.D.s who earned their bachelor 's degree in the physical sciences received a Ph.D. in the physical sciences. Among non-minority Ph.D.s who received a bachelor's degree in the physical sciences, over 70 percent earned their doctoral degree in the physical sciences (NRC 1992). These data indicate that minorities continue to drop out of science and engineering at higher rates than do non-minorities, even after earning a bachelor's degree. Such figures, while illuminating the extent of the problem that a National Scholars Program is seeking to address, offer little insight into what the persistence rates are likely to be for National Scholars. Whether students are likely to succeed in a degree program and then pursue further study depends on the qualifications and interest of the students selected, their perceptions of the job market, and the kinds of support and incentives offered to encourage and enable them to continue their study. Far more instructive is the experience of programs that target well-prepared minorities with the goal of attracting them into science and engineering careers. The PRISM-D program, a five-year program leading to a B.S. and M.S. degree in science and engineering, is one example. Of the initial cohort of 24 minority students majoring in chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics who entered the program in 1989, 19 completed the requirements of the dual degree program at the end of five years. Of the remaining five students, three are completing their work, and two are on medical leave. Program staff are confident that all of the students will complete the program. Of the 19 who graduated, 11 are enrolled in doctoral degree programs, and one is in medical school. The Meyerhoff Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has enjoyed great success in working with its scholars to assure that they not only graduate with strong academic qualifications, but that they continue on to doctoral study. The primary objective of the program is to produce research Ph.D.s in the sciences and engineering. At the same time, the program is having a significant impact on medical school admissions. Among the first three graduating classes, 93 percent are pursuing graduate or professional study in science or related areas. Fifty-nine percent are enrolled in programs leading to a Ph.D. in science or related areas, and 25 percent are headed toward an M.D.
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN degree. Of the 36 Meyerhoff Scholars who will graduate in June 1996, 100 percent are planning to apply to graduate or professional schools. It is expected that 69 percent will pursue doctoral study in science or related areas. Again, the point to be emphasized is that while the Meyerhoff graduates were very well prepared to pursue advanced study, some simply preferred not to pursue doctoral study because they were not excited about doing research. The difficulty is that until students have a significant research experience, neither they nor the program will know whether they will consider research to be a rewarding career. The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Honors Undergraduate Research Training Program was established to increase the representation of minorities in the biomedical sciences. The program directs funds to minority institutions to provide science courses and research training for honors students who are selected on the basis of their academic qualifications and commitment to pursue doctoral study in these fields. A recent survey of past MARC trainees found that of those who were trainees from 1977 through 1986, 95 percent had obtained their baccalaureate degrees. Although the intent of the program was to encourage Ph.D. study, only 24 percent sought a research doctorate, and of that group slightly more than one-half obtained the degree. By contrast, almost one-third of the trainees aspired to clinical doctorates, and 80 percent succeeded in doing so. The MARC experience illustrates an important distinction between individual success and program success. By any measure, MARC graduates are highly successful individuals. Over 40 percent have received a clinical or a research doctorate, and another 16 percent earned a terminal master's degree. On the other hand, the MARC experience also demonstrates how difficult it is to assure that students do persist to the Ph.D.—the goal of the program—and are not attracted to a different career objective. In addition to information drawn from the experience of other minority-targeted programs, the above estimates of persistence are based on our recommended qualifications of students who would be selected as National Scholars and the kind of program that would be put into place to facilitate their success. We would expect very few students to leave the program for failing to meet the academic requirements of the program. Students might decide to change majors or pursue other career goals for any number of reasons. Medicine draws many science majors. Some students may find that they simply do not enjoy research, or an attractive job offer may entice some students to forego graduate study. Personal circumstances may influence others. In short, a variety of factors may cause students to leave the program, but academic failure should not be significant in an effective program. Among those who enter graduate school, some may choose to complete a master's degree and not pursue doctoral study. For some fields, a master's degree is, in effect, a "consolation prize," but in other disciplines, such as engineering, a master's degree is sought as preparation for a well paid and interesting job. Thus, the estimate of 70 percent of graduate school entrants earning a Ph.D. might vary by discipline. For engineering it could be somewhat lower, but in a field such a chemistry, it might be expected that perhaps as many as 90 percent would earn the Ph.D. Our estimates may also be altered by the design of the National Scholars Program at an individual consortium. A consortium may have a linkage with a community college and thus admit students in the junior year to
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN the program. In the former instance, the community college linkage will be direct and intentional. However, we emphasize that the admission of large numbers of college juniors would be inconsistent with the intent of the program. Such students should be a small percentage of program participants—no more than 20 percent of the total number of undergraduate students. Moreover, admission of post-freshman students should be a positive action and not the consequence of recruiting students to maintain enrollments in a program that experiences high attrition because the program is not operating effectively. Consortiums may be permitted to replace up to 20 percent of their entering student enrollments in order to admit a small number of late bloomers or community college transfers. There must be a careful examination of the reasons that spaces are available at certain points in the program in order to differentiate between some level of anticipated and reasonable attrition and attrition that stems from an ineffective program.
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