Highlights from Higher Ed Special Edition: The Diversity Imperative

RJ Nichol
Oct 26, 2018

Across disciplines, higher ed institutions are dedicated to increasing access to opportunities for those from different backgrounds. In this edition of Higher Ed by the Numbers, we’re highlighting the progress that’s been made towards diversifying higher ed — and the work that’s yet to be done.

Transgender Students at HBCUs

Spelman College, one of the two Historically Black Colleges/ Universities (HBCUs) solely for women, this year joined the all women’s colleges that have an official admissions policy for transgender students. Trans women and other students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer have attended the college since its inception, but the new policy makes a clear statement about the school’s mission and policy commitment to inclusivity around the experience of womanhood. Spelman is also offering a lecture series inspired by the college’s “fervent belief in the power of the Spelman sisterhood” and a scholarship program that will give two students who self-identified as LGBTQ+ advocates a renewable $25,000 scholarship each.

Source: Diverse Education

Military Students

According to a report by the American Council on Education, more than 60% of active duty military undergraduates have four or more risk factors historically associated with attrition. In comparison, 44% of veterans, 37% of reservists and 30% of National Guard members have a similar number of factors. What does this mean for your institution? A large number of military students need support beyond what’s required by students who are not serving in the nation’s armed forces.

Source: American Council on Education

LGBTQ+ Student Debt

While student debt is a concern for all college graduates, it is often of greater concern for students who identify as LGBTQ+. On average, these students owe about $16,000 more after completing their educations than the general student population, partly because of a lack of family support. Many of these students also find that workplace discrimination prevents them from finding high-paying jobs that help them pay back their debt in a timely manner.

Source: CNBC

First Generation Students

In 2018, 42% of — or 90,000 — students across the University of California system were the first in their immediate families to attend a four-year college/university. That’s an increase of 36% from a decade ago, a trend that reflects positively on degrees becoming more attainable for those from lower socioeconomic statuses.

Source: USA Today

Women, Race and Upward Career Mobility

When over 600 women opened up about their experiences working in the health care industry, it became clear that women are more pessimistic about achieving gender parity in the workplace than they have been in previous years. More than 50% of those surveyed said they think it will take at least 25 years to achieve this goal, partially because of the lack of women in health care leadership positions in recent years. 86% of African American women see race as “very much” a barrier to career advancement, while only 9% of white women see race as a barrier.

Source: Forbes

Women in Leadership

Four black women are currently making history by serving as deans of prestigious Harvard schools. “If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, then I think that’s great,” Dr. Claudine Gay, the new dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, said. “And for people who are sort of beyond our gates, if this prompts them to look again and look anew at Harvard and imagine new possibilities for themselves, I think that’s great, as well.”

Source: Blavity

Gender in Engineering

Today, only 14% of all engineers and 25% of all IT professionals in the U.S. are women, and a 2011 survey of 5,500 women with engineering degrees in the U.S. found that 40% did not pursue an engineering career after graduation. Schools like the University of California, Davis see collaboration as the solution to this underrepresentation problem. The University is working with Chevron and the Koret Foundation to launch AvenueE, a community college transfer program that intends to eliminate barriers that hold back women and underrepresented minorities (URM) in engineering and computer science.

Source: Scientific American

Gender in Business

According to Forte Foundation, “women are benefitting from earning an MBA like never before.” Women who earn this degree can see their pay increase within their first five post-MBA years by 55-65%, making their lifetime earning potential over $3 million. There’s still work to be done, though. While companies are increasingly seeking out women with MBAs, only 17% of boardrooms include female representation and 4.8% of CEOs among the Fortune 500 are women — though 47% of the workforce is female.

Source: Forte Foundation

Social Justice at Women’s Colleges

According to Inside Higher Ed, many women’s colleges are seeing a “Trump bump.” Specifically, Barnard College has seen a 10% increase in applications, and a 4% increase in yield, since the 2016 election. Why? Vice President of Enrollment at Barnard Jennifer Fondiller believes “those enrolling are acutely aware of what is happening in the world as current events have motivated them to fight for social justice and equality… They are looking for colleges that will prepare them to enter these challenging spaces and navigate these conversations with confidence.”

Source: Inside Higher Ed

RJ Nichol

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