The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas has been ranked third in the country for graduation rates among minorities, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education. In 2012, 41 percent of the school’s graduates, or 441 students, were minorities.
Efforts by the Equal Opportunity in Engineering program at UT contributed to the gain. Program director Enrique Dominguez cites the organization’s close involvement in the academic progress of minority students.
"Our summer camp … gets [pre-college] students the visibility, " Dominguez says, also citing the program’s academic and tutoring initiatives. "We also have some leadership and professional development programs that help students to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to help them understand what kind of career that they want – as well as maybe if grad school may be right for them."
Although the Cockrell School graduates more minority students than any school in Texas, it graduates some minorities at higher rates than others. According to Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the Cockrell School ranked fifth for Hispanic graduates, sixth for Native Americans, and seventh for Asian-American graduates. But it ranked 30th when it comes to the number of African-American students it graduates.
That could be a reflection of the lack of African-Americans in the engineering field. According to the National Action Council on Minorities in Engineering (NACME), African-Americans in 2012 comprised just five percent of the engineering workforce and three percent of engineering faculty.
Dominguez suggests recruiting efforts aimed specifically at African-American students will help to boost numbers.
"We … are continuing to try to recruit them and to try to pursue the students with admissible criteria here to the university," he says. "Because as you know, a lot of the students want to and will apply to university. The caliber of students is just getting higher and higher as we speak, and especially in engineering. So being able to seek out those students and get to them early is our best shot."
NACME stresses not only early educational encouragement for minorities in engineering, but the need for universities to continue to pay close attention to these students through scholarships, community groups, and campus resources.
"The fact that we have more students graduating with engineering degrees can then branch down and show the next generation of minority students and minority children that it is possible for them to do it and it is possible for them to succeed and they can continue to do that," Dominguez says.
The engineering school's rankings come as the department works to build a new Engineering Education and Resource building on campus. On Friday, the UT Board of Regents approved a new funding formula that allows the school to move forward with the new building. When completed, it will also allow UT to accept 1,000 additional undergraduate engineering students.