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Retention Of Minority Undergraduates In Information Technology

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Computer Literacy Among Minority Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.986.1 - 8.986.10

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Paper Authors

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Roli Varma

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2270

Retention of Minority Undergraduates in Information Technology

Roli Varma

University of New Mexico


Undergraduate minority student retention is a major problem in core information technology fields namely computer science (CS) and computer engineering (CE) in American colleges and universities. Even though increasing numbers of minority students are declaring CS and CE as their major, departments are having a difficult time retaining and graduating them. The minority students are often less well prepared for CS or CE education and are preoccupied with outside jobs and family issues. They struggle with financial difficulties due to lost tuition revenues. It is complicated by the fact that CS and CE are demanding technical fields. The result has been low retention rates of minority students, namely Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. There is a need to improve their retention rates in CS and CE fields. This paper suggests administrative and educational policies that can be initiated to retain them.


Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are referred to as under-represented minorities (hereafter minorities) in core information technology (IT), namely computer science (CS) and computer engineering (CE). Under-representation means that the members of a profession include a significantly smaller proportion of people from that population group than exists in the total working-age population5. CS and CE are generally called core IT fields because jobs for computer scientists, computer engineers, systems analysts, and programmers have grown much faster than other jobs such as web-design and word processing, and traditionally students have picked up technical skills for such jobs in CS and CE fields7. Many other fields such as information systems, multimedia design, system administration, web service design, graphics, and human computer interface are called IT-related fields.

Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans together make up over 24% of the U.S. population, but less than 8% of the IT workforce. Even though more minorities are pursuing core IT fields than in the past, the number of them being educated in these fields is still low. For instance, in 1999-2000, Afro-Americans earned 324 (4%) of the CS and 72 (4%) of the CE bachelor degrees awarded. Similarly, Hispanics earned 292 (3%) of the CS and 74 (4%) of the CE bachelor degrees; the figures for Native Americans were 31 (0%) and 4 (0%), respectively. This is in contrast with Asians who earned 1988 (23%) of the CS and 319 (17%) of the CE

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Varma, R. (2003, June), Retention Of Minority Undergraduates In Information Technology Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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