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Informative tips on engaging various demographic groups in higher education Geography and Geoscience


Did you know that “there is a substantial enrollment gap between Latinos and all other groups among 18- to 24-year-olds—the traditional age group for college attendance and the cohort that reaps the greatest economic benefit from a college degree? Only 35 percent of Latino high school graduates in that age group are enrolled in college compared to 46 percent of whites.
Partnerships among graduate schools, undergraduate institutions, and community colleges can support higher education pathways for Hispanic students. “Latinos are far more likely to be enrolled in two-year colleges than any other group. About 40 percent of Latino 18- to 24-year-old college students attend two-year institutions compared to about 25 percent of white and black students in that age group.”

Did you know that “black males are the only group to hold the distinction of having more of their number in prison than in college? They are the only group of males to be outnumbered by women in college enrollment in the United States.”
Retention support is essential for African American students. “In higher education, a significant number of black students, including those with full athletic scholarships do not graduate after six years or attain a degree at all. The national college graduation rate of blacks in 2002 was 39%, compared with 60% for whites. For black women, the college graduation rate was 44%, and 33% for black males.”

Did you know that a recent national survey Asian American and Pacific Islander college students found that they benefit from contact with faculty, advisors, and resource centers, yet students also indicated a reluctance to pursue support and guidance from these sources?
Departments do well to consider the special barriers related to language background that Asian American and Pacific Islanders experience at a rate higher than other students. Whether born in the US or foreign-born, 5 to 18 year olds in this demographic are the least likely among all racial groups to report English as their primary language used in the home.

Did you know that although American Indian / Alaskan Native students now comprise 1% of enrollments in colleges and universities, the percent of Native American 18-24 year olds is still lower than all other groups? In 2006, only 26 percent were enrolled in higher education.
Departments with program offerings that feature the importance of place and/or environment have a potential advantage to link geography and geosciences to subjects that are culturally relevant to many Native American youth.  Educational research has shown that the active integration of cultural awareness and cultural relevance in the curriculum is key to ensuring that scientific subject matter becomes meaningful, practical, and transferable. 

Did you know that “minority students (other than Asians) and low-income students are more likely to have a disability than other groups?” About 9 percent of all undergraduates in higher education report having a disability, a percentage that has tripled in the last two decades. This amounts to about 1.3 million students.
The needs of students with disabilities vary significantly from person to person, including those with disabilities which are not readily visible, an important fact for programs to recognize and address. Being proactive to refer students to federally mandated resources available on campuses and following up on how well their needs are being met can help improve departmental climate and ultimately increase the retention and success of students with disabilities.

Did you know that 70% of women, almost twice the number of men, identify lack of mentoring as a barrier to success? AAG’s research on geography programs shows that when women and minority students perceive a program as indifferent or unsupportive, they are more likely to express a desire to leave the program.
Establishing informal or formal mentoring activities for women can make a difference for individuals as well as for programs as a whole. Promoting engagement in external networks such as through university-wide or national professional associations can also strengthen mentoring capacity and depth within departments.

Did you know that international students experience more difficulties with regard to their academic studies and access to resources than US citizens, as shown by AAG’s research on geography programs? International students also need more time for literature reviews and reading compared to national counterparts.
Providing specialized orientation for incoming international students can improve awareness and understanding of the academic expectations and institutional resources available to all students. Beyond the usual university-level orientations, department-specific events can help to clarify differences in assumptions and to make explicit international students’ needs.

The above tips were excerpted or adapted from the following sources:

AAG EDGE Findings, Solem PI, 2009.; Catalyst Newsletter, 2001

NAS 2007. Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. National Academy of Sciences: Washington, DC.

Wolanin, T., Steele, P. (2004). Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

Council on Social Work Education. (2008). Final Report: Status of Native Americans in Social Work Higher Education

Deloria, Vine, Jr. & Wildcat, Daniel R. 2001. Power and Place: Indian Education in America Fulcrum Resources: Golden, CO.

Ovando, Carlos J. 1992. “Science.” In Reynor, Jon (ed) Teaching American Indian Students. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman:, OK. pp. 223-240.

National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education. Federal Higher Education Policy Priorities and the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community

Fry, R. (2002). Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate

Amadu J. Kaba. (2005). Progress of African Americans in Higher Education Attainment: The Widening Gender Gap and Its Current and Future Implications. Education Policy Analysis Archives. 13(25), 1-32.