Achieving Justice and Equality in U.S. Higher Education: An Exemplary Program to Increase the Participation of Underrepresented Students of Color

William T Trent, Yuqin Gong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


It has been an increasing concern in American education that students of African American, Mexican American, and Native American origins are not well served by the American educational system. In higher educational institutions, these groups are underrepresented among both students and faculties. Students in these groups in higher educational institutions have been more alienated and thus their experiences in college have been far more discouraging than students of other groups (J. Anderson, personal communication, April 2001). Although there have been some affirmative efforts in assuring access to and participation in higher education by these groups and considerable progress has been made, people of color continue to remain substantially underrepresented in colleges and universities. They accounted for only 12.9 percent of all full time faculty and 9.6 percent of full professors in 1995.... Tenure rates for tenure-track faculty are also much lower for faculty of color than for White faculty (American Council on Education, 1998, p. 41). The daunting and persistent challenge confronting U.S. higher education is how to increase significantly the participation of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. This chapter assesses the effectiveness of the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) as a mechanism to help increase the representation of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans among the nation's college students and faculty. Recent works like The Shape of the River (Bowen & Bok, 1998) have played a very influential role in shaping the current policy debate regarding the presence of students of color in higher education, especially in highly selective colleges and universities. In their book Faculty of Color in Academe: Bittersweet Success, Turner and Myers (1999) chronicle the principal reasons for underrepresentation of African American, Latino/a, Native American, and Asian faculty on our nation's campuses. These include low overall rates of doctoral degree recipients, uneven access and participation across the disciplines, low rates of success in the hiring process, and a host of factors that reduce retention rates once hired and the tenure clock begins. The resulting numbers dramatically limit the availability of faculty of color to serve as role models to shape knowledge production and to mentor future faculty. Beyond the composition of the professorate, other major forces shaping the marketplace make earning the doctorate a critical accomplishment in this society. The current Bureau of Labor statistics report forecasting the fastest growing occupations from 1996 to 2006 makes it clear that a substantial proportion of jobs in this category require the Ph.D. or the First Professional degree (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998). The identified occupations include biological scientists, medical scientists, mathematicians and all other mathematical scientists, physicians, and veterinarians and veterinary inspectors. Each field currently plays a critical role in society from the economy to our public and environmental health. These fields continue to exhibit substantial underrepresentation of people of color and women (Trent, 1991; Trent et al., 2003). While considerable progress has been made over the past four decades in assuring access and participation equitably to these fields, higher education remains far from meeting our best aspirations and is quite a distance from parity. This condition of underrepresentation and lower participation is further exacerbated by the current attacks on affirmative efforts to enhance participation. Moreover, we currently have limited knowledge of how to create programs that will produce greater numbers of minority doctoral recipients. The Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) is an early intervention program designed to engage underrepresented minority students in research experiences with faculty mentors, to accelerate each student's socialization into the discipline, and to foster the creation of a community of scholars among all the participants. It is intended to better prepare students for and encourage them to pursue graduate study and academic careers. Some pilot studies have shown that the program has been effective in achieving its objectives (Eatman, 2001; Foertsch, Alexander, & Penberthy, 2000; Gong, 2002). In their longitudinal study of the programs' outcomes, based on participants' data from 1986-1996 and interview data, Foertsch et al. (2000) concluded that the program has been successful in recruiting its participants to graduate schools. They found that three-quarters of graduated participants of the first 11 years have continued to graduate schools or professional schools, which is three times the national average for all college graduates in the U.S. and more than four times the average for minority college graduates. In her quantitative evaluation of the program at one of the 15 campuses, Gong (2002) found that participation in the program significantly increased the likelihood of enrolling in graduate college at the same campus, especially for Hispanic males and African American females. Using SROP participants as subjects, this study will not only provide insights into the career attainment process for minority students, but it also has the potential to identify factors that make an intervention program effective in increasing participation and persistence of underrepresented groups in academe and other desirable occupations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHigher Education in a Global Society
Subtitle of host publicationAchieving Diversity, Equity and Excellence
EditorsWalter R Allen, Marguerite Bonous-Hammarth, Robert T Teranishi, Ophella C Dano
PublisherJAI Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84950-328-0
ISBN (Print)978-0-7623-1182-8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in Education in Diverse Communities: Research, Policy and Praxis
PublisherJAI Press
ISSN (Print)1479-358X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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