Steering potential talent to the academic track

The representation of African-Americans, Latinos, and native Americans in technology-related programs at colleges and universities nationwide is low.

In 1998, just 5 percent of computer-science and engineering bachelor's degrees went to blacks and Latinos. And from 1992 to 1998, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) reported an 8.2 percent drop among all ethnic-minority groups enrolling in freshman-level college engineering programs.

Among African-Americans, the decline was 17 percent.

To try to reverse the trend, NACME's Vanguard Program is working to identify and foster talent by performing "alternative assessments" of students of color who may otherwise be overlooked by recruiters at engineering schools, and then to help those students prepare academically for college.

"There are 550,000 minority students graduating from high school per year," says NACME's Toni Torres, who adds that even after 15,000 minority students annually opt for engineering programs, a huge pool of potential talent remains.

In addition, many community colleges and smaller four-year colleges are in a unique position to develop technological potential in talented minority students, but have suffered from a lack of access to newer computer-science curriculums and adequately trained faculty.

A new program offered through Carnegie Technology Education (CTE), a nonprofit subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is now working to remedy that situation by offering Web-based faculty development and course curriculums.

"We've found that one of the most exciting applications of Internet technology is to connect Carnegie Mellon's leading-edge content with the teaching skills and accessibility of institutions that serve diverse communities," says Allan Fisher, CTE's president.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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