Is Diversity in Higher Education Really Important?

While in recent times there has been a push for diversity in grad school admissions, minorities are still underrepresented. Diversity ensures equal opportunity to students of every ethnic group, sex, or age, making for a more qualified workforce across the board.

Gender diversity

Gender is one area of diversity that has changed dramatically over the last few decades. While we are no longer in a time when men are the only breadwinners, women still face inequality to this day. Women are underrepresented in some fields more than others. Fields like engineering and mathematics are still primarily dominated by men; however, there are more women than men in fields like education and health sciences.

Recent findings by the U.S. Department of Education show a promising trend toward gender diversity in college. Women are attending college in record numbers, especially at the graduate level. The U.S. Department of Education found that 60 percent of all master’s degrees are attained by women, and 52 percent of all doctoral degrees are earned by women.

Furthermore, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) found in its latest report that since 2009, women have earned more doctoral degrees than men. In fact, the study shows that women make up 58.5 percent of all graduate students in the U.S.

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While women are still minorities in certain fields, the increasing number of women in graduate school gives hope to those who want to pursue what have typically been male-dominated careers.

Ethnic diversity

Another important aspect of diversity is ethnic equality. African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians are among some of the most outnumbered ethnic groups in colleges and universities in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2009-2010 academic year, only 76,450 African Americans earned a master’s degree compared to 445,038 whites.

Furthermore, only 43,535 master’s degrees were awarded to Hispanics, 42,072 to Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 3,960 to American Indians or Alaskan Natives. The findings were similar at the doctoral level. Whites earned 104,426 doctoral degrees, whereas African Americans earned 10,417, Hispanics earned 8,085, Asians and Pacific Islanders earned 16,625, and American Indians and Alaskan Natives earned 952.

In effort to break down this ethnic barrier, many colleges and universities today offer special grants or scholarships for minority students. Not only do these scholarships provide incentive for students to attend college, but they also benefit the schools by creating a diverse population of students from all ethnic backgrounds.

A recent study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that more ethnically diverse college campuses produced a higher earning potential among graduates. Additionally, a research study conducted at the University of Michigan and UCLA found that students who interact and socialize with those of different ethnic groups had higher GPAs, greater intellectual and social self-confidence, and an overall more satisfying college experience.

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If you’d like to enjoy an ethnically diverse college experience, consider attending one of the top ethnically diverse colleges in the country, such as Rutgers, University of Houston, University of California—Riverside, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Bloomfield College in New Jersey.

Explore What Diversity Means in the Workplace

One of the most important reasons for promoting diversity in college education is to invest in and prepare our country’s future workforce. It is the responsibility of higher education institutions to promote diversity and welcome students of all races, colors, and backgrounds.

According to a survey conducted by Forbes, 85 percent of people stated that having diversity in the workplace was essential to the health of their business. Diversity in the workplace allows for better decision making and greater input from employees.

A group of colleagues from various backgrounds and ethnicities often produce diverse theories and ideas that take into account various angles of problems that need to be solved.

Furthermore, a company or organization that has a workforce comprising graduates of all backgrounds is able to understand its diverse clientele and even reach untapped markets.

Bias in Grad School Admissions

Despite the measures that universities have taken to increase diversity among student populations, there is still hidden bias in graduate school admissions. It is true that even the most selective schools have taken steps to create a diverse student body, but the incoming freshman class rarely represents the overall population in terms of class and ethnicity.

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In fact, students from upper-class and upper-middle-class families are admitted at higher rates than students from working-class families (27% vs. 19%), which undoubtedly leaves minority groups underrepresented in universities. Schools with a large pool of qualified applicants are in a unique position to bridge this inequality gap and create a diverse workforce.

Final Word

When it comes time to fill out your grad school applications, ask your preferred schools about their admissions process and whether they are actively taking steps to ensure a diverse student body.

Although all graduate schools are seeking only the best candidates who demonstrate academic promise, you will find that some universities are looking for students who contribute more than just academic merit. Find schools that truly appreciate the value of a diverse classroom, whether online or on campus.