Progress and Pitfalls in Underrepresented Minority Recruitment: RESULTS

12 Nov
2009

The overall response rate was 59% (86 out of 144), which compares favorably with the 41% response rate obtained by Dinan et. al. in their medical school survey. Our response rate did not differ by geographic region but was higher among osteopathic schools than allopathic schools (68% versus 55%, P<0.05). Of the responding institutions, 50 identified themselves as public and 28 as private; eight schools did not respond to this survey question. Among the 60 schools responding to the question on the percentage of entering students who were URM, the mean was 10.4% (median 10.0, inter-quartile range 6-15%). This figure is similar to the 10.9% URM enrollment at all U.S. medical schools in 2001 . The mean percentage of URM did not differ significantly among private schools versus public schools or at osteopathic versus allopathic schools. Phone contact with nonresponding schools found that that lack of time or staff resources to fill out the survey by the deadline was the most common reason for lack of participation. However, two schools expressed concern that providing data on this topic would leave them legally vulnerable.

Barriers to Recruiting Minority Students

Of the 37 possible barriers to URM recruitment, only five were cited as significant by at least half of the responding schools (Table 2). Of these, three barriers were related to educational preparation, with low MCAT scores being mentioned by 90% of schools. The other commonly listed educational barriers were low grade point average (GPA) (60%) and poor preparation in the sciences (55%). However, the second and third most commonly listed barriers to URM recruitment were related to minority faculty representation in the medical school. In fact, the absence of role models and lack of minority faculty members were noted as significant barriers by three-quarters of respondents.
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Table 2. Medical school reported barriers to underrepresented minority recruitment

Barrier                                                                     Percent Listing as Barrier at Their Institution
Legal/Policy/Regulatory
Court decisions

33%

State/local policies

19%

State legislation limiting affirmative action

14%

Educational
Low MCAT scores

90%

Low undergraduate GPA

60%

Poor preparation in sciences

55%

Absence of high school science interest programs

46%

Low educational achievement

40%

Lower quality of schools previously attended

34%

Lower level of academic achievement among parents

30%

Poor communication skills

19%

No participation in service-oriented extracurricular activities

17%

Socio-cultural
Absence of role models

77%

Lack of peer/community support

45%

State/area population not diverse

37%

Negative parental and cultural attitudes regarding careers

19%

Financial/Economic
Lack of financial aid

48%

Parental income level

39%

Difficulties in finding financial resources for your school’s programs

28%

No financial travel assistance to the required admission interview

27%

High application fees

14%

Housing issues

12%

Recruitment/Admission
Not enough minority faculty members

71%

Other schools in the area targeting URM majoring in sciences

39%

Absence of summer enrichment programs at your school

27%

Race/ethnicity/gender composition of the admission committee

22%

Absence of partnerships with private and public organizations

20%

Lack of mentorship programs

20%

Lack of career development outreach

16%

No URM student recruiters

13%

Complex application process

10%

No pre-admission counseling and application assistance

7%

Absence of an office of minority and/or multicultural affairs

7%

No faculty member designated to address issues of concern from URM students

7%

Financial barriers were cited by less than half of respondents, and on the whole, schools did not feel that their recruitment process or institutional qualities posed a problem—with the exception of lack of minority faculty members. Interestingly, although our study was conducted prior to the Supreme Court’s recent favorable ruling on affirmative action, even before this ruling, less than one-third of respondents cited legal issues around affirmative action as a significant barrier.
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Recruitment Strategies

We found that most schools have a wide variety of initiatives for URM recruitment (Table 3). Indeed, each of the 11 URM recruitment strategies listed in our survey were present in at least half of the schools. Of these, preadmission site visits to medical schools by minority applicants (91%), preadmission counseling (88%), career outreach programs to communities (83%), financial aid (82%) and URM student early identification {11%) were the most commonly utilized.

When asked to rate the effectiveness of each of the recruitment programs employed by their schools, less than half of the schools gave any of these specific strategies the highest rating of “very effective”, with two notable exceptions: URM student recruiters (61% of schools rated this recruitment strategy as “very effective”) and enrichment programs for minority students (56%o of schools rated this strategy as “very effective”). However, few schools (<15%) rated any of the 11 strategies as being totally ineffective. Of the 11 strategies, the only one positively correlated with the percentage of URM students was having summer enrichment programs. Among the 36 schools that reported having such a program, the mean percentage of entering URM students was 12.5% ± 6% versus 7.0% ± 4.8% (p<0.01) at the 20 schools that did not report having such a program.

Table 3. Medical school reported recruitment strategies for underrepresented minority students

Recruitment Strategy                                                 Percent of Schools

Percent Rating Program

with Program

Very Effective

Site visit to school (pre admission)91%

44%

Pre-Admission Counseling87%

40%

Career development outreach in primary or secondary schools81%

30%

Financial Aid80%

31%

Early Targeting of Minority Students75%

38%

URM Student Recruiters71%

61%

Enrichment Programs66%

56%

Community Based Education Programs64%

39%

Alumni Involvement64%

33%

Application Assistance61%

37%

Partnerships: Education or Labor State Departments, Foundations44%

36%

Other Underrepresented Minorities

When schools were asked about interest in recruiting other groups, 86%) said they were interested in recruiting economically disadvantaged students, 58%) were interested in the recruiting racial/ethnic minorities not currently designated as URM, 51% in women and 42%) in students with disabilities. Fewer schools were interested in attracting second-career students (36%o) or gay and lesbian students (24%)). When asked in an open-ended way what other groups the schools were interested in targeting, the most frequent answer was in recruiting regional ethnic minorities.
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Self-Evaluation

Eighty schools provided a self-evaluated score of their success at URM recruitment. The median score was 8, with 26 schools giving themselves this score (interquartile range 6-8). Only 13 schools (16% of respondents) gave themselves a score under 5. These scores were weakly correlated with the percentage of URM students reported by each school (Spearman coefficient of 0.38, P<0.01) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Medical school

Figure 1. Medical school self-evaluated success at underrepresented minority student recruitment versus the percentage of entering students who are URM

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