New Study Shows Underrepresented Students Are Earning More Engineering Degrees, But Attainment Gap Remains
Photo Credit: AfroTech

New Study Shows Underrepresented Students Are Earning More Engineering Degrees, But Attainment Gap Remains

The number of engineering degrees earned by Black and Latino undergraduate students is increasing, though not enough to close the attainment gap.

A new report from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) reveals that while Black and Latino undergraduate students are increasingly enrolling in college, the number of engineering degrees conferred to underrepresented minorities fails to match the demand for tech workers.

Latino students who earned engineering degrees increased 79 percent while Black engineering degrees increased by 35 percent between 2011 and 2016. 

While those increases are promising, the overall percentage of black and brown students graduating with engineering degrees is still low. According to the study, 19 percent of undergraduate students are hispanic, but only 11 percent have engineering degrees, a figure that only increased by two points from 2011-2016.

That number is even lower for African Americans, who make up 13 percent of college undergraduates, but only make up 4 percent of engineering degrees, a number that gone unchanged over the same five-year period.

The study also mentions that the lack of diversity at the graduate level is an even bigger problem. While graduate numbers are up among Underrepresented Ethnic Groups, they still only make up just over 6 percent of all graduate and doctoral degrees in engineering.

Though the five year increase outpaces white and Asian engineering degrees, Black and Latino graduates are still largely underrepresented in the industry.

“The only way we’re going to fill those jobs is by enrolling and graduating more underrepresented minority students,” said Eugene Anderson, the APLU’s vice president of access and success.