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Bayer: Universities fall short of minorities as sci-tech graduates

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By Thomas Olson
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

More than one-third of the nation's top 200 research universities have poor records for retaining and graduating minority students, according to a survey released Wednesday by Bayer Corp.

According to the Robinson-based company's poll of department heads at those schools, 37 percent gave their institutions a "C" or lower grade for how well they retain and graduate black, Hispanic and Native American students. Twelve percent ranked majority male recruiting/graduating records as poor, and only 14 percent said the same regarding females.

Bayer surveyed 413 heads at departments of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which Bayer calls "STEM" fields. The science education poll, subtitled, " A View from the Gatekeepers," is Bayer's fifth survey on diversity representation in the sciences.

"For Bayer, these issues are critical," said Bayer CEO Greg Babe, of the survey findings on female and minority students. The company's businesses, he said, "can only succeed if they have access to a highly skilled STEM work force."

Among factors deterring minority students from pursuing STEM studies in college, according to the survey:

-- 32 percent of faculty heads cited "limited quality" college-prep in STEM fields

-- 17 percent cited a "lack of role models"

-- 10 percent said "their cultural background doesn't value science (and/or) the pursuit of science."

Although 84 percent of those polled found minority and female recruiting and retention to be a key issue for their universities, only one-third of them said their universities had comprehensive plans to recruit and retain minority and female students in STEM studies.

"The bottom line (is) university leadership must act," said Rebecca Lucore, executive director of the Bayer USA Foundation.

Bayer has backed science education several ways for years, said spokesman Bryan Iams. Its foundation founded a Pittsburgh-based program called Asset in 1992, which shows instructors how to teach science using hands-on learning techniques. Bayer did not disclose funding amounts.

In addition, Bayer has has spent "multi-millions over the years" on its "Making Science Make Sense" program, which brings volunteers into classrooms K through 12 to teach science, said Iams. Founded in Pittsburgh 15 years ago, the program now is national in scope.

Additional Information:

Properly prepped?

Top faculty poll: Do university science, technology, engineering and math students enter college with adequate academic preparation?

For female students: 82% yes / 14% no / 4% unsure

For majority students: 74% yes / 20% no / 6% unsure

For minority students: 34% yes / 49% no / 17% unsure

Source: Bayer Corp. survey

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