Chapter 3:

The Undergraduate Experience in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering


Technical Notes to Chapter 3

Indices of Representation: College Enrollment 

Indices of representation were computed by dividing the proportion of the category enrolled in college by the proportion of the category in the general population 18 through 24 years of age and then multiplying the results by 100.[9]  For example, if white males were 35 percent of the general population 18 through 24 years of age in 1994, and 35 percent of the persons enrolled in 4-year institutions of higher education, the IR for white males would be 100. (See appendix table 3-20.) If a category is represented in the college population in the same proportion as it is represented in the general population, its index score will be 100. The term "parity" is used in this chapter to describe this situation. If a category has a higher proportion in the general population than it has in the college population, its index score will be less than 100. The term "underrepresentation" is used to describe this situation.

On the other hand, if a category has a lower proportion in the general population than it has in the college population, its index score will be greater than 100. The term "overrepresentation" is used to describe this situation. It should be kept in mind that a category may have a high index score, yet constitute a small proportion of the college population. For instance, if Asian females constitute 1.95 percent of the general population 18 through 24 years of age, and 2.71 percent of the persons enrolled in 4-year institutions of higher education, their IR score would be 139. (See appendix tables 3-20.)

Indices of Representation: Bachelorís Degrees Awarded 

Indices of representation were computed to assess the relative representation of racial/ethnic and gender groups in the awarding of bachelorís degrees in 1994 and 1995. For 1994, the proportions of the racial/ethnic and gender groups among full-time, first-time, first-year students in 1990 were divided into the proportion of the racial/ethnic and gender groups receiving bachelorís degrees, and then multiplied by 100. Similarly, for 1995, the proportions of the racial/ethnic and gender groups among full-time, first-time, first-year students in 1991 were divided into the proportion of the racial/ethnic and gender groups receiving bachelorís degrees, and then multiplied by 100. This index can be interpreted similarly as the IR in college enrollment discussed earlier. It is noted that students take different lengths of time to complete a bachelorís degree program, and some programs, notably engineering, are longer than 4 years, but the IR should indicate patterns of differences among the racial/ethnic and gender groups in earning bachelorís degrees. The data for the development of the IRs excluded nonresident aliens and U.S. citizens and permanent residents for whom their race/ethnicity was unknown.

Students With Disabilities 

Researchers selected the University of Minnesota for the study because of its strong reputation in science, mathematics, and engineering; a record of enrolling a significant number of students with disabilities; and its well-established Office of Disability Services. Within the University of Minnesota, the Institute of Technology (IT) offers degrees in several engineering disciplines, as well as physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, and computer science.

University of Minnesota IT students who had registered with the Disabled Services (DS) office of the university were invited to participate in this confidential study. They included 41 of the 93 full-time undergraduates registered at the IT in fall 1993, and a small (N=19) sample of recent graduates (that is, 1 to 5 years since graduation) who were working in the Twin Cities area.

The total number of participants was 65, of whom 60 were IT undergraduates or graduates, and 5 of whom were undergraduates with disabilities majoring in disciplines other than science, mathematics, and engineering.

The students participated in interviews and focus groups, varying in length from 45 to 90 minutes. Interviews were conducted in the style of a focused conversation. Like students in both public and private institutions, students who register themselves as having a disability at the University of Minnesota have access through the Office of Disability Services to a system of services. Such services were developed first in compliance with the Federally mandated 504 Regulations (1977), which required postsecondary institutions to make all programs accessible to qualified students with disabilities and provide reasonable accommodations, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).

American Indians in Higher Education 

The McAfee (1997) study was ethnographic in nature, it examined the experiences of 43 American Indians enrolled in nine undergraduate institutions in eight western states. Of those, 23 had left school. Of that number, only 22 percent were perceived to have a strong identity with their traditional cultures. By comparison, 50 percent of the 16 who had completed baccalaureate degrees were thought to have strong ties to their American Indian heritage.

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Footnotes

[9] Population estimates from the U.S. Bureau of the Census were used for the general population data. These data included nonresident aliens, persons excluded from the college enrollment data. This difference will have the effect of reducing the Index of Representation for all of the categories. The Census data were obtained from the following reports: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P25-1092, "Population Projections of the United States, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1992 to 2050." U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 1992; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P25-1095, "U.S. Population Estimates, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1980 to 1991." U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 1993; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P25, No. 601, "Projections of the Population of the United States: 1975 to 2050," U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1975.


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