News Column

Rising Student Expectations

Sept. 9, 2011

Richard Larsen, Deputy Managing Editor

Except for occasional bumps up and down, Hispanics have made steady though slow advancements over the past five years at the nation's top postgraduate schools specializing in business, engineering, law and medicine.

Overall, Hispanics pursuing their postgraduate degrees averaged 13.5 percent over five years, increasing from 10.9 percent in 2007 to 15.8 percent this year. Those receiving degrees averaged 10.8 percent in the same time period, from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 13.8 percent today. The percentage of faculty members at these schools who are Hispanic also increased from 6.7 percent in 2007 to 8.9 percent today, an average of 8.1 percent per year.

Each year, HispanicBusiness magazine measures the effectiveness of the nation's universities in attracting Hispanic students. HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business Inc., assesses the nation's top universities for Hispanics in the fields of business, engineering, law
and medicine.

The 40 universities -- 10 in each degree area -- were ranked in terms of Hispanic diversity on the following criteria:

-- Hispanic student enrollment.

-- Hispanic faculty members.

-- Degrees conferred to Hispanics.

-- Progressive programs aimed at increasing enrollment of Hispanic students.

Despite the progress, Hispanics still lag behind the general population in degrees conferred.

Education Gaps
A July report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted that 63 percent of jobs will require a postsecondary degree by 2018.

The author of the report, Michelle Camacho Liu, who tracks postsecondary issues for the NCSL, wrote: "For the United States to have the highest percentage of college graduates, 13.4 million more adults need to earn degrees by 2020. To reach this goal, almost a quarter of these additional degrees (3.3 million) need to be earned by Latino students."

Only 19 percent of Hispanic adults have a postsecondary degree, according to the NCLS study, compared to 42 percent of whites and 26 percent of African-American adults. A Pew Hispanic Center survey said that, in the 25-to-29 age range, only 13 percent of Hispanics had completed a bachelor's degree. The largest gap occurs in California, where only 15.5 percent of Hispanics have a higher degree compared to 50 percent for whites. The percentage of Hispanics with higher degrees in Nevada, 11.4 percent; Arizona, 15.8 percent; Texas, 16.2 percent; Illinois, 16.5 percent; and Colorado, 17.4 percent, come in significantly lower than the national average. Florida has one of the highest rates of Hispanics with higher degrees, 32 percent.

University Snapshot
Forty colleges make up the Best Schools for Hispanics in the four postgraduate course categories. Geographically, Florida leads the way with eight universities, Texas comes second with seven and California comes next with five.

For the fourth year in a row, the Georgia Institute of Technology has ranked No. 1 for its diversity efforts in the institute's College of Engineering. One other university also repeats at the top of the rankings. The University of Texas at El Paso has ranked No. 1 in the business school category for two years.

New to the No. 1 rankings are the University of Texas at Austin's School of Law and the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. After a four-year absence, Yale University's School of Management returns to the best business schools list at No. 9, and the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business makes its debut at No. 6 on the list.

The only new entry on the best engineering school list is Cal Poly Pomona. There were no new entries on the best law and medical schools lists.

By the Numbers
Hispanics make up the largest percentage of students, 26.3 percent, seeking a master of business administration degree, up from 13.6 percent five years ago. Hispanics attend law and medical schools at about the same rate, 15.6 for the former and 15.5 percent for the latter, up respectively from 13.5 percent and 14.6 percent five years ago.

While Hispanic enrollment at engineering schools has increased over five years, from 6.1 percent in 2007 to 8.5 percent today, it is the weakest of the four postgraduate categories. The fact that Hispanics only make up 8.5 percent of students pursuing a postgraduate degree in engineering and make up only 8.2 percent of those who receive an advanced degree in engineering underscores an assessment that Hispanics are underrepresented in careers that are among the fastest growing in the United States -- science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

In terms of graduation, the rates of Hispanics gaining their degrees roughly parallels enrollment. Overall, an average of 10.8 percent of Hispanics per year earns degrees in one of the four course categories HispanTelligence tracks. This year, 13.8 percent of total degrees conferred went to Hispanics, up from 8.6 percent in 2007.

Again, business had the highest percentage of degrees conferred. Hispanics earned 22.9 percent of the MBA's conferred, up from 6 percent since 2007. Hispanics were granted degrees in law and medicine at a fairly consistent rate -- 13.1 percent earned J.D. degrees, slightly less than the 13.8 percent awarded in 2007; 15.4 percent earned M.D. degrees, up from 10.5 percent in 2007.

Hispanics earned 8.2 percent of the engineering degrees conferred, up from 6.2 percent in 2007.
The Instructors
Diversity at the graduate level is not merely about the number of Hispanics enrolled or earning degrees, it also is about inclusion of Hispanics in the teaching ranks. That, too, has shown a steady increase since 2007, when only 6.7 percent of professors in business, engineering, law and medicine were Hispanic. Today, 8.9 percent are.

Law colleges have the highest percent of Hispanic professors, 11.6 percent, up from 8.2 percent in 2007. Medical schools come next with 9.4 percent of the teaching staff Hispanic, up from 7.1 percent in 2007, followed by business schools with 9.1 percent, up from 6.4 in 2007, and engineering with 5.1 percent, up from 4.4 percent in 2007. Like student enrollment, the percentage of Hispanic faculty in engineering schools lags. It is less that the percent of enrolled Hispanics—5.1 percent, up only 0.7 percentage points from 2007.

Bridging the Gap
These are positive trends in diversity for the HispanicBusiness Best Schools, but in many cases, the percentage of Hispanics students, recent graduates and faculty is well below the percentage of Hispanics in the general population. Efforts are under way on a number of fronts to increase Hispanic participation in higher education.

Programs such as the University of Texas at Austin's diversity fellowships for incoming students help offset the cost of postgraduate education. The program offers a $16,000, nine-month stipend, with health insurance assistance (currently $1,100) and tuition assistance (currently $3,784 per long semester). About 100 of these fellowships are awarded annually.

But several efforts are aimed at filling the pipeline of Hispanic students so a steady flow takes advantage of higher education.

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, in a June report titled "The Educational Experiences of Young Men of Color," offered several suggestions to help increase the number of students, including increasing community, business and school partnerships to provide mentoring and support to young men of color, and education reform to ensure all students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school.

The opportunities for Hispanics to gain advanced degrees in business, engineering, law and medicine are increasing, but to keep pace with the needs of the workforce, more needs to be done to prime the pipeline, to help Hispanics be ready for college after high school and graduate school after college; and to provide the needed resources to see them through graduate school.

Source: (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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