2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Attracting Black Students to Undergraduate Engineering Programs: A Rapid Review for Broadening Participation

Presented at Student Division (STDT) Technical Session 4: Minoritized Student Experiences

The fact that racially minoritized students are historically and systemically excluded in engineering education, and subsequently, the engineering field, is well-documented in the literature [1], [2]. In response, many Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have implemented an array of targeted pre-college programs and initiatives to increase interest of racially minoritized students for enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs [3], [4]. Despite these efforts, a 2021 report from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) shows that the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students has been stagnant since at least 2010 [5]. In 2010, the number of U.S. engineering bachelor’s degrees that were earned by Black students made up just 4.5% of all engineering bachelor’s degrees conferred that year, and in the years following, the numbers decreased – dipping to as low as just 3.5% of all engineering bachelor’s degrees going to Black students in 2014 – before rising slowly in 2015 and leveling off again at 4.7% in 2020. And so, we ask: why is the needle not moving? Currently, research on broadening participation in engineering is abundant, yet comprehensive literature on effective practices for attracting Black students who are nearing or actively in the college admissions process is scant.

To explore this problem, we conducted a rapid literature review exploring the ways existing research describes past and current programs and initiatives for attracting Black students to undergraduate engineering programs. Articles were narrowly selected through various education and science databases, and our search consisted of the following: peer-reviewed articles published with study populations focusing on minoritized students, within the constraint of higher education recruitment in the U.S. We sought to categorize, summarize, and synthesize research to uncover emerging themes, illuminating pathways to propel forward the urgent discussion of effectively attracting Black students into college engineering programs.

The aim of this paper is to serve as a critical reflection on current equity-focused initiatives for college recruitment and outreach as it pertains to Black and other minoritized students in the engineering field. This literature review is the first phase in a series of mixed methods studies to better understand and address strategies used to attract minoritized students into undergraduate engineering programs.

  1. Micaha Dean Hughes North Carolina State University, Raleigh [biography]
  2. John Roberts UK College of Engineering [biography]
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  • Broadening Participation in Engineering and Engineering Technology
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