Associations Between Predictive Indicators and Postsecondary Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Success Among Hispanic Students in Texas
Nationwide, Hispanic students continue to be underrepresented among students who complete a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and among workers in STEM fields. This discrepancy is a concern, especially in light of the projected growth in employment in STEM fields and in light of the fact that wages for jobs in STEM fields are 26 percent higher on average than wages for jobs in non-STEM fields. Concern is particularly acute in Texas, where Hispanic students account for 51 percent of the K–12 student population.
The current study used data on seven cohorts of students who entered grade 9 in 2000–06, were enrolled in a Texas public high school for at least three years, and enrolled in a two year Texas public college or a four-year Texas public or private college or university by spring 2011.
Key findings include:
- Math and science courses taken in high school showed statistically significant and robust associations with postsecondary STEM success for students who enrolled in a two-year or a four-year college.
- Achievement in math and science in high school showed statistically significant and robust associations with postsecondary STEM success for students who enrolled in a two-year or a four-year college.
- A higher high school attendance rate was associated with a greater likelihood of declaring a STEM major and completing a STEM degree among students who enrolled in a two-year college and with a greater likelihood of persisting in a STEM major among students who enrolled in a four-year college.
- No indicators were predictive only for Hispanic students. However, among students who enrolled in a two-year college, the grade 11 state assessment score in science was less strongly associated with the likelihood of declaring a STEM major for Hispanic students than for non-Hispanic White students.
The finding that indicators that predict postsecondary STEM success function similarly for Hispanic and non-Hispanic students suggests that one explanation for the lower percentage of Hispanic students who declare and persist in a STEM major and complete a STEM degree might be that Hispanic students participate in advanced, rigorous math and science courses in high school at a lower rate than non-Hispanic White students do. This study lends urgency to policies and practices that address underrepresentation of Hispanic students in rigorous courses.