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Many of the Black and Hispanic undergraduates majoring in sciences at the two most selective University of California campuses during the 1990s might have been better off academically and financially if they had attended lower-ranked UC counterparts.

That’s one of the conclusions in a new study examining UC’s minority science graduation rates that published this month in “The American Economic Review.” The UC is widely considered one of the most prestigious public institutions nationally.

Authors of the report stopped short of criticizing affirmative action, which was an admissions factor until California voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. UC revised its admissions policies, which took effect for the 1998 freshman class. Authors of the report did not voice skepticism about the ability of minorities to succeed in the sciences; in fact, their research tactics suggest they wished more students of color had earned science degrees during the 1990s.

In the new report, titled “University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in the STEM fields,” researchers examined data for students across all racial groups who attended and/or graduated from a UC campus between 1995 and 1997. Among the data studied were race/ethnicity, academic preparation in high school, intended academic major, and, among graduates, the discipline in which the bachelor’s degree was awarded if different than the original major.

Findings in the report indicate that, while the proportion of minorities across eight UC campuses who initially declared a science major was slightly lower than that of nonminorities (33 percent versus 40 percent), only 24.6 percent of these minorities graduated with a science degree in five years.

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