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.
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