Patterns of persistence of Latinas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs : a mixed method study
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The U.S. demographics are changing, with Latinos leading the nation in population growth. Meanwhile, reports of a nation lacking a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workforce flood the media. With claims that the fastest growing careers will require some sort of mathematical, technological or scientific training, it is not surprising that national attention has been focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates through policies such as The America Competes Act (2007) and initiatives such as Race to the Top (2014). Trends in postsecondary enrollment are changing; Latina/o enrollment has increased, with many Latinas/os choosing a STEM major upon entry, but failing to persist to graduation in these degrees. An increased body of research has focused on minorities in STEM, Latinas/os in higher education, and STEM graduates, yet the literature specific to Latinas in STEM fields is lacking. Latina females outnumber males in postsecondary enrollment and graduation, yet few enroll and even fewer graduate in STEM fields. The limited number of Latinas seeking careers in STEM thus raises questions about why Latinas fail to enroll in STEM majors and what needs to be done to increase their enrollment and persistence in STEM careers. As such, this study will conduct a thorough analysis using a mixed methods approach to examine the factors and experiences that can positively impact enrollment and persistence for Latinas seeking STEM careers.