More problems with our higher education needs. Who besides NSBE is taking this one. We need more input. Study: Blacks, Hispanics face slower degree completion ACE study finds time to acquire math, science degrees longer than that of peers Edward Bennett, Jr., Cavalier Daily Staff Writer A study released Monday by the American Council of Education found that black and Hispanic students complete math and science degrees at a slower rate than do their white and Asian peers. The study, which tracked the progress of 12,000 students starting in 1995, found that although black and Hispanic students enter college interested in majoring in science, technology, engineering or math at rates comparable to those of whites and Asians, the number of them that complete their studies in the sciences is significantly lower, according to the release. Chief Diversity Officer Bill Harvey said "the problem is larger than we've positioned it." He added that he believes the decrease to be part of a much larger global issue, as jobs are leaving the country because of a lack of emphasis on the sciences. The survey found a correlation between completion rates and factors such as family income and high school curriculum, with "completers" generally coming from more privileged backgrounds. Harvey expressed a similar sentiment, saying a large part of the rate discrepancy comes from the fact that "students from communities that have been underserved" have been presented "less opportunities than their white counterparts." The University has several programs aimed at increasing minority representation in the sciences, including the Center for Diversity in Engineering and the Excellence in Diversity fellowships program. Excellence in Diversity aims to improve the retention of minority faculty members, according to Environmental Sciences Prof. José Fuentes. "It is true that fewer people are finishing degrees in sciences -- in both the Hispanic and African-American groups there is a decline in the number of people pursuing degrees in the sciences," Fuentes said. Fuentes quoted as an example current statistics for the environmental sciences, where of 1,991 atmospheric science doctorates completed from 1973 to 2001, 96 were granted to Hispanic or black students. "I think this is a very, very complex issue," Fuentes said. "Part of the reason is that we, the scientists, have not done a good job of telling young people that [science] is a very rewarding field." Fuentes helps run a joint program between the University and Howard University, which aims at fostering positive understanding among minority and majority students of environmental sciences. The program focuses on "hands-on" diversity, by bringing students from different backgrounds together to participate in atmospheric field experiments together. According to Fuentes, the state of diversity among faculty is a key factor in the issue of attracting and retaining students from minority groups. The question that needs to be asked, according to Fuentes, is, "What can we do to really get people excited about science?" Harvey stressed that the current situation of diversity in the sciences "presents an opportunity for the University to step up and be a national leader in this regard."