Hunter College and the African School of Economics announced today a new partnership intended to address a long-standing problem—the underrepresentation of Black students in prestigious doctoral programs of economics.
With additional collaborative support from Princeton University, the partners plan to increase the number of African American students admitted to Hunter College’s master’s program in economics by 20 each year and prepare them to compete for acceptance and succeed in America’s most prestigious PhD programs, including that of Princeton University. The partnership will actively engage Black students from colleges around the country, with special focus on historically Black colleges and universities and public colleges in New York City, including Hunter’s own undergraduates. In subsequent years, the program will leverage African School of Economics’ global connections by actively recruiting students from Africa and the African diaspora.
“As an alumna of Princeton, I’m especially proud of this partnership, bringing together public and private institutions of higher learning for the benefit of our students,” said Jennifer J. Raab, President of Hunter College. “This is just another step in Hunter’s ongoing commitment to make the American dream come true.”
Hunter is committed to marshalling additional resources to support a summer preparatory program and ongoing mentorships so the students can succeed. An application for related grant support will be submitted to the National Science Foundation, which has already expressed interest in the concept. Private philanthropic support will also be pursued in support of these students.
The partnership will be co-led by Leonard Wantchekon, PhD, Founder and President of the African School of Economics, as well as Professor of Politics and International Affairs and Associated Faculty in Economics at Princeton University; and Partha Deb, PhD, Chair and Professor of the Department of Economics at Hunter College.
“When we at the African School of Economics began thinking about selecting a partner for this work, Hunter College quickly rose to the top,” said Professor Wantchekon. “First and foremost, Hunter has a rigorous master’s program with a strong reputation for preparing students for doctoral work. Second, Hunter College—in fact, all of CUNY—has a well-deserved reputation for promoting social mobility and nurturing students who are minorities or are the first in their families to go to college. And third, the program is extremely affordable, especially when compared to many other master’s programs around the country, and the campus and New York City are incredibly diverse, so students will feel comfortable.”
Professor Deb explained, “We are pleased to expand Hunter's historic commitment to provide access to those who might otherwise not have an opportunity at a top-notch education, including in fields like economics that offer excellent career options.” He added, “Our program has breadth that few do—with expertise in both data-focused studies and social science research. We believe we can begin to close the race gap in the academic world of economics, I’m confident that, a decade from now, people will cite this partnership as having made a great difference. ”
In recent years, nationwide, only about 5 percent of all degrees in economics were awarded to Black students. While the fraction of Black graduates in all fields of study has increased over time, it has not in economics, which has lagged behind other fields of study, including other STEM programs.
Economists at other prestigious American colleges have long recognized the need for a pipeline to support Black students, and the partnership will work to pave the way for seamless transitions from the master’s program at Hunter to their future PhD programs.
Also benefitting the students, the partner institutions are committed to mentoring, training, and organizing internship opportunities for them. Students will also have opportunities to attend workshops and work as research assistants for faculty at elite institutions and as interns at high-profile firms.
As an additional benefit, Professors Deb and Wantchekon expect that the program will be able to draw top academic economists from around the country to deliver lectures to the students, as Professor Wantchekon himself looks forward to doing.
The first students will be selected in spring 2021 for formal admission in the fall, preceded by preparatory work in the summer.