50K Coalition Founders Call for Increased Diversity Amid DEI Rollbacks

ALEXANDRIA, Va. ~ 50K Coalition Reaches Milestone of 50,000 Underrepresented Engineering Graduates in One Academic Year

In a historic achievement, the 50K Coalition has announced that for the first time in the nation's history, over 50,000 minorities and women have received undergraduate engineering degrees in one academic year. This milestone was reached two years ahead of the organization's target date of 2025.

The Impact Report released by The 50K Coalition highlights this significant accomplishment but also acknowledges that there is still much work to be done to remove barriers and create pathways for underrepresented engineering students and professionals. The report will be discussed at a virtual symposium titled "Engineering a Brighter Future" on Monday, Feb. 19 at 12:00 p.m. EST.

Despite this achievement, there are still significant disparities in representation within the engineering field. The current rollback of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in academic and corporate environments is only exacerbating these disparities. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions ending affirmative action in higher education and denying student loan relief are making it even more difficult for underrepresented students from low-income and underserved communities to attain STEM degrees.

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The lack of diversity in the engineering field has far-reaching consequences for our nation's economic competitiveness, quality of life, and national security. In response to this issue, The 50K Coalition was founded in 2015 by four preeminent engineering societies – American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE). It now includes over 60 diversity engineering organizations, academic institutions, and corporations committed to increasing diverse representation in engineering.

The coalition's efforts focus on four key areas: fortifying undergraduate support and retention, strengthening linkages between community college and four-year engineering programs, supporting K-12 students with math and science education, and fostering an inclusive culture and climate within engineering institutions.

Janeen Uzzell, CEO of National Society of Black Engineers, emphasized the importance of collaboration in achieving this milestone. "Through the 50K Coalition, we've seen the power of what can be achieved when we come together with a shared goal," she said. "Broadening participation in engineering is not just about numbers; it's about fostering innovation, enriching our perspectives, and building a future in which everyone has an equal opportunity to shine."

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While the 50,000 graduates milestone is a significant achievement, the Impact Report reveals that disparities still exist. In 2015, only 34% of undergraduate engineering degrees were awarded to minorities and women. In 2020, this number rose to 40%, with approximately 126,000 total undergraduate engineering degrees awarded.

However, when broken down by cohort, the report shows that not all underrepresented groups are experiencing equal increases in the number of engineering degrees earned. Women saw a 55% increase from 2015 to 2020 but still only accounted for 24% of undergraduate engineering degrees awarded in 2020. Similarly, Hispanic graduates saw a 72% increase during this period but only accounted for 14% of engineering degrees awarded in 2020. Black graduates saw a smaller increase of 34%, and American Indian and Alaska Native graduates actually saw a decrease between 2018 and 2020.

The report highlights the need for continued efforts to address disparities in educational access and resources for underrepresented students. The coalition remains committed to its goal of increasing diverse representation in engineering and will continue its efforts to fortify support for underrepresented students at all levels.

For more information on The 50K Coalition's work and the Impact Report findings, please visit their website or contact Clif Morgan at cmorgan@nsbe.org or (703)837-8253.
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