THE RISING SCHOLAR EXPERIENCE: GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDENTS
Overview and Student Profile
The UC Davis community is encouraged by its progress of becoming an HSI serving institution; however, to participate and contribute at the highest levels of U.S. society, our Rising Scholar undergraduates also deserve access to the highest level of education.
Graduate programs in the U.S. are commonly grouped by graduate academic and graduate professional degrees. Graduate academic degrees include academic doctoral and master’s degrees in education, letters and sciences and engineering or computer sciences. Graduate professional degrees include degrees in architecture, education teaching credentials, law, health, business and management, public policy and veterinary sciences. Although the Ph.D. is the tool by which access is often measured, academic master’s and professional degrees are also critical goals for Rising Scholars.
The report by the National Science Foundation (NSF), “Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2015,” asserts the value of a doctoral level education by noting the breadth of careers recipients enter from small to large organizations or starting their own businesses. Furthermore, a graduate education “develops human resources that are critical to a nation’s progress—scientists, engineers, researchers, and scholars who create and share new knowledge and new ways of thinking that lead, directly and indirectly, to innovative products, services, and works of art. In doing so, they contribute to a nation’s economic growth, cultural development, and rising standard of living (National Science Foundation, 2017a).”
In 2015, programs nationwide granted 54,664 doctoral degrees, the highest number ever reported (Ibid). Between 1975-2015 the number of doctoral degrees doubled (Figure 22). These numbers are a stark contrast to the number of doctoral degrees awarded in non-S&E fields that remains virtually the same as in 1975. Moreover, among the 2015 doctoral degrees granted, the number awarded to historically-underrepresented recipients have increased by small percentages over the past ten years, but is far from the total number of doctoral degrees received by other groups (Figure 23). For example, from 2005 to 2015 the percentage of Chicanx/Latinx students receiving doctoral degrees in the U.S. grew from 5.1% to 7.0%, respectively (3,851 in 2015); For the same period, Black/African American growth was even smaller, from 6.2% to 6.5%, respectively (3,576 in 2015); American Indian/Alaska Natives experienced even lower increases, with minimal growth from 2014 to 2015 only of +28, a number so small that the increase is barely perceptible.
The same NSF report also identifies earned doctorates for underrepresented students by fields. These data demonstrate that Chicanx/Latinx students are heavily represented in the fields of humanities and arts and are nearly equal to the life sciences (See Figure 24). These data beg the question of why doctoral representation is not evenly distributed for Chicanx/Latinx across all disciplines and at higher percentages, potentially equal to their presence in California (39%) or the U.S (18%) in 2018.1
A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau (2019) indicates that the number of people in the U.S. population that have earned master’s (21,280,000), professional (3,202,000) and doctoral degrees (4,487,000) have doubled in the past two decades.2 However, the number of Chicanx/Latinx who have earned graduate degrees in the U.S. population represent numbers and percentages far below their corresponding overall numbers and percentages:2
- Chicanx/Latinx that have earned master’s degrees (1,397,000 / 7%);
- That have earned professional degrees (221,000 / 7%) and;
- That have earned doctoral degrees (196,000 / 4%).
Chicanx/Latinx Graduate and Professional Students at UC Davis
To understand the imperative of welcoming and supporting Chicanx/Latinx students to pursue graduate degrees, it is valuable to understand the context of their enrollment in graduate programs at UC Davis.
From the most recent data,3 in fall 2018, the enrollment of graduate students across all graduate academic and professional degrees numbered 7,291 of which,
- 61% identified as domestic, California residents;
- 54% as female
- 6% as domestic non-residents;
- 22% as non-resident international; and
- 10% as other/unknown
Racial/ethnic groups represent a small percentage of the total graduate and professional student population,4
- 15% are identified as belonging to a historically underrepresented group;
- 81% are non-historically underrepresented;
- 3% declined to state.
Also we can consider Chicanx/Latinx graduate students at UC Davis in light of their graduate programs by school or college that indicate underrepresentation across all disciplines. Representation is key to understanding our Chicanx/Latinx graduate students:
- Domestic, first-generation graduate students at UC Davis were 14% of new enrollment, since tracking began in fall 2016 (UC Davis Graduate Studies Analysis and Policy, 2019, March)5;
- UC Davis graduate students report both food and housing insecurities (Kaur, A., accessed March 26, 2019);
- In the 2017-2018 academic year UC Davis teaching assistants taught between 14% - 24% of all undergraduate courses on campus, depending upon the college6;
- Chicanx/Latinx applications have increased 25% (789 for fall 2018) since 20157;
- Chicanx/Latinx admissions have increased significantly, 61% (360 for fall 2018) since 2015, a yield rate of 46% for fall 20188; and
- Chicanx/Latinx SIRs for fall 2018 was 1999, a yield of 55%;
- 17% of domestic historically underrepresented graduate students held school loans while only 1% of non-historically underrepresented counterparts held school loans10;
- Domestic historically underrepresented students averaged nearly twice the amount of loans in 2018 than their domestic non-historically underrepresented peers.11
While our Chicanx/Latinx graduate and professional student applications, admissions, and enrollments are growing, the 14% they represent among the total graduate and professional population is disappointing when compared to the 25% Chicanx/Latinx undergraduates. Moreover, Chicanx/Latinx graduate and professional student admissions and success are critical to increasing the diversity of University of California faculty.
Graduate Admission Processes
The current increases in the numbers and percentages of Chicanx/Latinx undergraduate students at UC Davis is a result of an intentional strategy. However, a similar increase for Chicanx/Latinx graduate students has not been realized due to a very different model for graduate admissions. While undergraduate admissions are led by a team of high-level administrators and admissions professionals, an analogous infrastructure does not exist for the majority of graduate and professional programs at UC Davis, much less in higher education.
Since the passage of Proposition 209 in 1995 the University of California, with its commitment to public education and access, has slowly developed undergraduate admissions practices that are a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics that considers the background and preparation of applicants holistically. The development of holistic admission practices, coupled with strategies and well-trained, year-around professional staff have resulted in an increasingly diverse, prepared and competitive undergraduate student body.
Undergraduate admissions practices are in contrast to those of graduate admissions where they are the purview of faculty members within each graduate program/group and considered a component of faculty self-governance.
Broadly, each year, graduate admissions committee members and chairs are assigned, often by the department or group chairperson to review applications and decide who to admit and fund with disciplinary logics foremost (Posselt, J., 2015). Graduate admissions committees and leadership regularly change from year-to-year, consequently developing new, or simply ongoing graduate admissions policies and procedures that have little time to coalesce against a backdrop that prioritizes faculty research above teaching and service. Thus, the vision and established practices, training and consistency resulting in UC Davis’s HSI status at the undergraduate level is founded in a structural model inherently different from how graduate admissions take place at UC Davis and at similar research institutions.
Summarizing these methodological differences between undergraduate and graduate admissions and understanding demographic trends of UC Davis undergraduates, graduates and faculty are key to understanding our Chicanx/Latinx graduate and professional students at UC Davis. Moreover, it lays bare implications for the teaching of Chicanx/Latinx undergraduates by graduate students and faculty who are far less culturally diverse than the undergraduates they teach.
- 1. Drawn from the US Census Bureau on 2/22/19
- 2. a. b. Drawn from the US Census Bureau on 2/22/19.
- 3. Data available at https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/fall-enrollment-glance, drawn 2/23/19.
- 4. Ibid, drawn 2/23/19.
- 5. First generation data for graduate students has only been collected since fall 2016.
- 6. University of California, Davis (2019, March). Budget and Institutional Analysis.
- 7. UC Davis Graduate Studies weekly report of Applications/Admissions/SIR as of June 2018, 1.
- 8. UC Davis Graduate Studies weekly report of Applications/Admissions/SIR as of June 2018, 3, 5.
- 9. UC Davis Graduate Studies weekly report of Applications/Admissions/SIR as of June 2018, 5, 7.
- 10. University of California, Davis (2019, March). Graduate Studies Analysis and Policy.
- 11. Ibid.