The PRE-M Academy

The PRE-M Academy was established by the McNair Scholars Program to assist underrepresented freshman students interested in STEM fields make a successful transition into college and become acclimated to campus life. PRE-M is set up to help students be successful in their chosen academic fields and prepare for graduate school by participating in the McNair Scholars Program starting their sophomore year.

Closing the STEM Gap

President Obama announced the Educate to Innovate campaign, an initiative designed to improve the participation and performance of America's students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It recognizes that American students are underperforming in math and science at a time when our nation needs those skills the most, and seeks to increase students' proficiency in related subject areas, expand education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, and retain America's leadership and innovation.

At the collegiate level, there must be a comprehensive strategy focused on minority students' recruitment, retention, graduation and matriculation into STEM graduate programs or careers. The curriculum must also be aligned to the relevant marketplace, students should be involved in ongoing research activities, and the use of technology and specialized equipment should be encouraged.

There is no single solution to the problem of under-representation of minority students in STEM disciplines. But the nation must make educational success of minority students in these fields a priority. Strategic investments in STEM education can have a tremendous effect on halting the erosion of the U.S. preeminence in the science and technology marketplace.

Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Why PRE-M?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 36% of African American students and 42% of Hispanic students who began postsecondary education in 1995 had completed a bachelor’s degree after five years, compared with 58% of White students (Cook and Cordova 2006). The bachelor’s degree completion gap is even wider in the STEM disciplines: nearly 70% for White students compared with 42% for African Americans and 49% for Hispanics (Anderson and Kim 2006).

Disparities in STEM persistence and degree completion can be attributed largely to economic factors and academic preparation among racial subgroups (Adelman 2006).

Diversifying the STEM Pipeline: The Model Replication Institutions Program.