Roueche Center Forum: Diversifying the Undergraduate Engineering Education Pathway – An Opportunity for the Community CollegeJuly 31, 2020 |
by Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail
Vision 2030, a recently released report from the National Science Board (NSB), is the latest in a plethora of warnings that the American way of life is threatened because we are in danger of falling behind in STEM, the disciplines that have powered American prosperity for decades. The current COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the power and promise of scientists, engineers and health professionals bringing their collective knowledge to bear on this challenge. Yet, the disparity in the representation of minorities, as well as women, is becoming an increasing problem for the STEM disciplines given the demographic changes occurring in society.
The field of engineering is a good case in point. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)’s report, Engineering by the Numbers, shows a slight increase in the percentage of engineering bachelor’s degrees earned by underrepresented minority groups (URMs) in 2018 vs. 2017. Hispanic students earned 11.4% of bachelor’s degrees vs. 11.1% in 2017, continuing a decade long upward trajectory. Black/African American students earned 4.2% of bachelor’s degrees in 2018 vs. 4.1% in 2017, reversing the downward trend experienced from 2008-2016. Native Americans and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders earned 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, of bachelor’s degrees. Although the data show increases in minority participation in undergraduate engineering education, that progress has been marginal, neither steady enough nor substantial enough for the representation of minorities to approach parity with their presence in the U.S. population.