Thursday, August 19, 2010

The economic imperative of achieving diversity

Around the globe the pressure to raise college completion levels is growing. Many political and business leaders recognize that prosperity, within a rapidly changing global economy, requires more knowledgeable workers: Today's employers expect workers to be, among other things, critical thinkers, effective communicators, ethical decision-makers and effective team members.

Given these realities, the educational community faces significant challenges--and opportunities--in ensuring that all students are equipped with the skills that are vital to America's long-term economic success.

Who are these current students? Are they ready to become future workers? Are we ready for them? Current demographic trends show that today's workforce is more diverse than in previous decades. In years to come large proportions of Americans entering the workforce will come from low-income and racial/ethnic minority groups that have been the least well served by our schooling systems and, correspondingly, that have the lowest rates of high school and college completion. According to the U.S. Census, by 2050 racial/ethnic minorities will comprise 55% of the working-age population, with Latinos at 30%, African-Americans at 12% and Asian-Americans at 8%. These rates reflect a sizable increase for Latinos (by 100%) and Asian-Americans (by 33%) over current statistics.

To ensure that all workers have the skills to succeed in the workplace, our nation's leaders, as well as leaders of our higher education institutions, recognize the importance of promoting diverse learning environments--not for the sake of diversity itself but precisely because of the economic (and educational) benefits that flow from learning that takes place in a diverse setting.

Within the higher education community, the term "diversity" often reflects the array of student backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and characteristics that add to the mix of college campuses. Research has confirmed numerous benefits associated with a diverse learning environment. Diversity enhances the educational experience, fostering students' academic and social growth. It encourages students to think critically, enhances communication skills and fosters civic engagement. Click here to read the full article.

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