President Barack Obama made it a priority to improve the quality of engineering, mathematics, technology and science education across the nation. It has been estimated that the US will need more than 1 million more professionals in the STEM industry by 2022 and the US will need to pull talent from all segments and sectors of the population to fill the demand.
Historically, black colleges (HBCUs) play a major role in the advancement of African Americans in STEM related fields. And for this reason, the administration instituted reforms that would give more funding for universities to renew, reform and modernize their programs to meet the new demand. And while many of these education programs are not funded by the government, many initiatives have been taken to close the gap in access and equity in STEM fields.
HBCUs are Up to the Task
For over a century, HBCUs have been instrumental in the academic success of African American students across the board. However, their contribution to the STEM field needs to be noted. According to a study by the National Science Foundation, more than 30% of the institutions educating African Americans in the STEM field are HBCUs.
As a matter of fact, even though HBCUs make up only 3% of all colleges in the United States, they produce a whopping 27% of all African American bachelor’s in STEM related fields. In addition, HBCUs accounted for 11% of all education bachelor degrees awarded to African American students. Also, Xavier University, another prominent HBCU, awards more African American students in STEM fields than any other university in the nation.
Alternatives to HBCUs
While HBCUs might be a preferred choice for some African American students, some might be interested in a more inclusive route. However, African Americans often have a problem with inclusion in many of the nation’s campuses. This is why many decide to pursue an online master’s in engineering and other STEM related fields. The University of California Riverside, for instance, has a great online master of engineering program that is very inclusive and as thorough as any engineering degree from a reputable traditional institution.
Need for More Investments in STEM Related Fields
Despite an increasing number of African American and Latino students attending college, minority students are still underrepresented in many STEM fields. This is due in part because of failures in the public education system. It has been found that only 40% of all public schools serving African American students had physics classes. What’s even more alarming is that only a third of these schools offered calculus classes. This puts African American students at a huge disadvantage when trying to enter STEM related fields.
What Needs to be Done
While some of the numbers on education among African American are promising, more needs to be done to promote STEM fields among the African American community. Awareness about STEM fields has to be brought to African American students and public schools need the resources necessary to provide adequate classes to students. With sustained efforts, the current climate is set to change and the nation’s diversity will ultimately show in all sectors, including STEM and other tech related fields.