Underrepresented minorities (URMs) — African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Latinos— who have historically comprised a minority of the U.S. population are growing in size and influence. Currently, they constitute 30 percent of the U.S. population, but by 2050, these groups will account for greater than 40 percent of the U.S. population. Underrepresented minorities are particularity underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Contrast these metrics with the number of URMs earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering; they earned only 12.5 percent of all such degrees in 2011. Higher education experts say this gap poses an alarming problem not only to universities but also to the nation as a whole.
The demand for qualified STEM professionals is high, but the supply of STEM workers to fill these positions is at risk if underrepresented groups are not engaged in these fields. URMs complete high school at lower rates than their peers. They also score lower on their standardized test scores, which can serve as a barrier to college admission. The retention to graduation rates for URMs who do enroll as undergraduate STEM majors are comparatively low as well. As a result, the engineering workforce does not look like America. However, progress is being made.
Underrepresented minorities in STEM education have earned nearly three times as many engineering bachelor’s degrees, more than four times as many engineering master’s degrees, and more than seven times as many engineering doctorate degrees in 2011 than they did in 1977. And in 2011, 30 percent of URM engineering bachelors’ recipients graduated from a NACME Partner University. Visit the NACME Research Publications page for more about URM’s and NACME,