In terms of disciplines, we intend for the program to cover a broad spectrum. It will include the traditional fields associated with the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering, as well as interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary fields such as computer science, biophysics, and statistics. It will also be open to the inclusion of new, emerging fields which may represent the forefront of knowledge.
This goal should be achieved within 10 years after full implementation of the program. We think that this is a reasonable target and will signify one measure of genuine progress. At present three percent of Ph.D.s in these fields are conferred to African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and American Indians. Doubling this number will mean that about six percent of Ph.D.s (assuming that the total number of degrees conferred in these fields does not increase) will be earned by minority men and women. For purposes of comparison, it should be noted that these minority groups made up 22 percent of the total U.S. population in 1990 and 27 percent of the school-age population (NSF 1990, 4).
At a time when there is widespread concern about employment opportunities for new Ph.D.s, it is pertinent to examine the numerical impact of a program that intends to produce more Ph.D.s (COSEPUP 1995, 63). In 1994 U.S. universities awarded 12,647 Ph.D.s in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering, the equivalent of a four percent increase over the prior year. That same year 1,813 Asians who were U.S. citizens or noncitizen permanent residents received Ph.D.s in these disciplines, a figure that is several times that for all other minority groups. By comparison, the proposed goal of 235 additional Ph.D.s is small relative to overall Ph.D. production in the pertinent fields. It will, however, have a significant impact on the number of underparticipating minorities earning a Ph.D. degree.
A National Scholars Program will not operate in a vacuum. Other national initiatives to increase minority participation in the scientific and technological work force are already underway. For example, the National Science Foundation has drafted a plan in which it proposes a set of milestones by which to measure progress. "The Foundation 's goals are to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in NSF-supported fields receiving B.S. degrees to over 50,000 annually by the year 2000 and to increase the minority Ph.D. attainment to over 2,000 by the year 2000 (NSF 1994b). The NSF goal applies to a target population that differs in several respects from that which we have identified. It is limited to U.S. citizens but includes "Other Hispanics" in addition to Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans. The life science and social science disciplines are also included.
NSF has initiated a range of programs to accomplish these goals. They emphasize long-term reform by establishing comprehensive science and mathematics and technology education programs in school systems that enroll large numbers of minorities and coalitions to improve minority achievement on college and university campuses. In contrast to a National Scholars Program, these efforts do not specifically target a subset of talented, high-achieving students who are the most likely prospects for doctoral study.
Another national initiative is the Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Project's Action Council on Minority Education which challenged the nation in 1990 to take action to improve the educational achievement of minority Americans. In its plan the council emphasized science and mathematics education and specified a