We believe that part of the reason for this lack of continuance through higher education is a deficit of mentorship and knowledge of resources. It is the personal experience of the CABE board members that many black engineering graduates, do not pursue a graduate degree in engineering because they believe that the student loans from college are burdensome enough without compounding more debt by returning to graduate school. The average cumulative debt (undergraduate and graduate) of those who earned doctorates in 2009 was $41,018 for blacks and $22,518 for whites. In addition, 27.1% of the black graduates had debt of $70,001 or more, while only 10.5% of whites had the same amount of debt (ref.4). Many black students are simply unaware that most universities in the United States pay engineering students a stipend to attend a doctoral program, and that the repayment of their student loans is deferred while they are still in school. Aside from that, there are several organizations, both private and federal that award fellowships to promising black engineering students to finish a higher degree. Our intent is to develop programs to highlight these opportunities and channel students to extended resources.
Many studies have also shown that though a small number black engineering students are enrolling in doctoral programs, the number of these students who actually remain to finish their degree is incredibly small. The retention of black engineering students is much lower than for their white or Asian counterparts. Many universities do not have the necessary environment to address the needs of this minority student, eventually leading them to leave their respective PhD programs. Take for example Figure 3, which shows the results of a survey taken by students across the entire UC system in response to the statement, "students of my race/ethnicity are respected on this campus." Of all of the races/ethnicities, black students make up the large majority of people who disagreed with this statement. It should be noted that Riverside had the most agreement from black students, making it the most comfortable UC campus for black students. This data is strong evidence that the UC system is in desperate need of a change in the racial climate on each of its campuses. Here, we propose to implement a program that is directed toward improving the recruitment, retention, and success of black students in graduate engineering programs.
Figure : UC-wide response to "Students of my race/ethnicity are respected on this campus" in 2012.