grees in engineering were awarded to foreign nationals (EWC, 2004). However, the United States cannot continue to rely on talent from elsewhere to meet its engineering needs. As Chubin et al. (2005) and many, many others have observed, recent events have raised questions about the decades-long strategy of drawing engineering talent from other countries. We must begin to ask ourselves who should be admitted to U.S. universities, if we want graduates to stay here or return home, if national security concerns take precedence over the development of a global workforce, and if a profession rooted in American markets can thrive on increasingly foreign-born talent.
The demographics of the engineering workforce clearly reflect the problem. About one-third of the school-age population in the United States consists of underrepresented minority students. Women constitute more than half of the U.S. population and 60 percent of the total workforce. Jackson (2002) observed that women and minorities in the U.S. no longer are the underrepresented minority, they are the underrepresented majority. Nevertheless, the percentage of freshman women enrolled in engineering has declined recently, from a high of 19.9 percent in 1996 to 16.34 percent in 2004 (EWC, 2004).
The lack of diversity in the engineering workforce and in the engineering-education pipeline, poses significant, and growing, costs and risks for the engineering profession. First and foremost, the extreme under-representation of major segments of American society in engineering poses a moral and social dilemma, and, unless actions are taken to change the situation, the opportunity costs to the engineering enterprise and the nation will increase in the coming decades. Second, experience in industry and the classroom shows that creativity is increased and the range of potential solutions to problems is expanded when teams of people approach problems from diverse personal, cultural, and disciplinary perspectives. The scarcity of women and underrepresented minorities in U.S. engineering classrooms, research laboratories, design studios, and corporate boardrooms limits the perspectives and diversity of ideas/solutions (Wulf, 2002). Finally, although the long-term demand for engineering is notoriously difficult to predict, demographic trends guarantee that the current “underrepresented majority” in the United States will account for an increasing share of the population and workforce as the new century progresses.
Community colleges have long been recognized as providing opportunities to advance the goal of diversifying the U.S. engineering workforce, especially racial and ethnic diversity. Although the makeup of community colleges student bodies varies by geographic location, a larger percentage of students from some minority groups, notably Hispanics and American Indians, attend community colleges than white students. Con-