RAPID: The Impact of COVID-19 on Broadening Participation in Engineering at HBCUs

COVID-19 spurs an unprecedented global crisis disrupting life as we know it, affecting the overall economy, and abruptly transmuting the traditional methods, experiences and abilities of higher education institutions? faculty, staff and students. With strict social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state governments across the country, colleges and universities are forced to abruptly transition to forms of remote instruction. For Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), smaller endowments to pull from and historic inequity from state and federal funding sources have exacerbated the negative impact of COVID-19. While HBCUs enroll a significant percentage of first-generation and low-income students, they award a disproportionately greater share of degrees to minority students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Specifically, HBCU engineering programs graduated 20.3% of all bachelor?s degrees awarded to Blacks and permanent residents in engineering in the U.S. between 2002 and 2012, although they only make up 0.02% of all ABET accredited programs.

High-touch student support and a sense of belonging displayed at HBCUs, through faculty and peer mentoring, in addition to a myriad of supplemental programming, have been credited with the heightened sense of community reported by students, faculty and staff. With limited contact to students, COVID-19 has introduced a new set of challenges for HBCU students, faculty and staff, especially those majoring in or working closely to STEM academic areas, who have higher requirements linked to labs, hardware (e.g., laptops), software and internet access. As students, faculty and staff within engineering programs are dealing with multiple challenges at once, this project will allow these experiences to be captured now and not lost over time.