2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Quantifying the Pool of Underrepresented Minority Students for Engineering Studies

Presented at Track: Collegiate - Technical Session 13

Keywords: Undergraduate, Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Engineering

Abstract: A widely held belief exists among engineering educators and policy-makers that if pre-college student interest in engineering were broadly increased, the population of students pursuing a collegiate engineering education would be more diverse. However, after years of working in engineering admissions, a more probable hypothesis emerged that the pool of engineering-eligible students that come from communities of color is smaller than might be expected. To reach parity in representation with national, college-bound, high school graduates, engineering colleges would need to markedly change admission practices regarding the use of standardized test scores. This investigation uses data from the American Society for Engineering Education College Profiles on typical entry metrics for incoming first-year students at participating engineering colleges compared with standardized test score results broken out by race/ethnicity. The pool of students who are eligible for engineering admission are compared to how many would be needed to reach national racial/ethnic parity. The level of student interest in engineering is also considered. Fostering student interest in engineering to the extent that it leads more, and more diverse, students pursuing engineering as their chosen undergraduate major is key to increasing the number of underrepresented students who enroll in engineering colleges. The larger, and perhaps more problematic issue for the engineering profession is that far too few students meet the stringent academic standards expected by engineering colleges to be able to achieve regional and national race and ethnic parity in engineering education. Meeting parity with regard to race and ethnicity would require a drastic change in admission policy and practice through reduced reliance on standardized test scores.

  1. Dr. Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder [biography]
  2. Dr. Jacquelyn F. Sullivan University of Colorado Boulder [biography]
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