What Will Obama’s Legacy be when it Comes to Diversity on College Campuses?

With less than two years left in office, President Barack Obama still has a lofty agenda when it comes to education in America. From supporting wider access to universal Pre-K all the way up to a proposal for two free years of community college for everyone, President Obama has taken an immersive approach to education that challenges the status quo. When it is all said and done, what will President Obama’s college diversity legacy look like?

More people of color in college leadership positions

Though he has not introduced any official legislation that demands more people of color in leadership spots, the President’s mere presence in the nation’s highest position has paved the way for others to step up in their own industries. I predict a steep rise in minority faculty members, deans and college presidents in the coming decade due indirectly to the example set by this President. His push for more minority graduates will also mean more minority college leaders being fed into university systems.

More minorities graduating from college

The rate of students entering colleges across the nation was already at a record-high when President Obama took office, but so was college debt. Between unchecked student loan interest rates and for-profit universities recruiting non-traditional and minority students without the right support programs in place for those students to graduate, the college landscape had become ineffective for many of the nation’s students. In his tenure, President Obama has worked hard to make the cost of college more affordable, through more federal Pell grants and more federally-backed student loans, as well as loan repayment programs that offer caps on income or loan forgiveness clauses. This has helped all students but an argument can be made that making college more affordable will prove a long-term improvement when it comes to minority graduates who were deterred by the high cost in the first place.

Specifically, President Obama has put minority-friendly programs in place like My Brother’s Keeper that address the specific problems that particular groups face when it comes to obtaining an education. He has also made K-12 schools more accountable for getting their students college-ready with federally-funded incentives like Race to the Top, which focuses on closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. In order to feed colleges more minority students who are ready for the tasks, the grades that come before the college years must be considered – and the President seems get that, and to have a good grasp of the bigger picture of what a college education means for minorities.

More high-skilled minorities in the workforce

With his proposal for tuition-free community college for the first two years for all students, President Obama is ensuring that this next generation of high school graduates will be able to elevate their educations beyond the K-12 years. This applies to all students, but here again is a point where minorities will benefit most. By essentially making the first two years of a college education an extension of the high school years, with some performance requirements attached, minorities will not face the financial roadblock that often accompanies entering college right after high school. Perhaps the area where minorities will see the biggest boost if this proposal becomes law is in the portion that will allow older students who never completed college right after high school to go back to school too. Non-traditional minority students will not have to go the for-profit college route to return to school or find a way to carve out tuition to community colleges from household budgets.

President Obama has always been outspoken about his goals of breaking down barriers in the way of minorities who want to obtain a college education, particularly young men of color. As he completes his term in office, I expect to see him confront these initiatives with even more aggression to cement his legacy as a President that worked hard to improve the diversity on American college campuses.

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Diverse Conversations: The Difference Between Diversity and Equity

The nature of higher education is changing and the student population is changing at colleges and universities across the country. With luck, the promotion of equality in higher education will continue to engender equality in education – not only in terms of student access, actually, but in terms of employment. But how does diversity and equity work out in education – in the practice of teaching in higher education? Given the issues of equality and diversity within education, how, in today’s changing context, can we move on and teach these principles effectively?

To grapple with this issue, I spoke to Dr. Adriel A. Hilton, Director, College Student Personnel Program & Assistant Professor of College Student Personnel at Western Carolina University. Dr. Hilton served as past director for the Center for African American Research and Policy as well as Assistant Vice President for Inclusion Initiatives at Grand Valley State University. He also served as chief diversity officer and executive assistant to the President & Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees at Upper Iowa University.

Q: Concentrating on this issue of equality and diversity, first, let’s talk about how they are related. How do you see the relationship between equality and diversity in higher education?

A: I find it interesting that two words with contrasting meanings are used jointly as a way to improve higher education. Equality is synonymous with likeness, uniformity, fairness, and homology; while diversity, on the other hand, means unlikeness, variance, mixed, and heterogeneity. Yet, when the words are synced with higher education, they become mutually beneficial, having a powerful impact.

Much research has been done on the effects of diversity in higher education, concluding it has very positive effects on students. Exposure to diversity—whether it be cultural, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or those with disabilities—provides students the opportunity to learn about and from each other, resulting in cognitive growth and citizenship.

The equality factor in higher education is to assure all students legally start off on a level playing field. Equity policies have evolved over the years—from the first affirmative action laws in the 60s to the One Florida Initiative of the late 90s to the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2013. These laws were not intended to give preferential treatment, but are an effort to break down the barriers that discourage underrepresented populations from enrolling in college and suffering injustices in the workplace. These efforts are still widely debated, particularly quotas, but with colleges today focusing on promoting diversity, having some sort of equality policies in place on campus set expectations for students, faculty, and staff. They set standards of respect and call for all students to view each other as equals and for faculty and staff to treat each student, regardless of his or her differences, the same.

Q: Do you think higher education institutions are sufficiently aware of the difference and if not, why not?

A: I would like to think that anyone employed in higher education appreciates equality and diversity and acts accordingly, but I am not that naive—hence the need for equality regulations and policies. Personal experience has proved that people in higher education are human first, with learned prejudices that have been passed down through the generations and of which are hard to let go. It is only through knowledge of and exposure to people of different races, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and those with disabilities, that insight is gained about another person’s lived experiences. Without this knowledge, any degree of empathy, respect, or joy about any person who is unlike us is impossible to understand. When no conscious effort is made to learn about diversity and equality, progress is impeded.

Q: Explain why you feel it is imperative that courses in diversity and equality are included in college curricula.

A: The obvious answer is knowledge about diversity equips our graduates with the tools needed to effectively cope in today’s diverse workplace and global society. We now live in an age where technology has allowed us to easily connect with all types of people from around the world. Sensitivity toward a person’s culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability is an absolute must.

Community service is another motivation for colleges to offer diversity and equality courses. Who better to pass on the importance of a college education to underrepresented teens than someone who has been through the process? When college students serve as role models through partnership programs with local public schools, it can be very fulfilling and even lead to a lifelong passion for community service.

However, the main reason diversity and equality should be taught at the college level is that it helps to develop empathetic, socially conscious individuals. I think former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a good example of a college-educated, empathetic, and socially conscious, wealthy white male.

According to the NCSL (National Council of State Legislatures) website, when Governor Bush issued the One Florida Initiative in 1999, his intent was to reform college preparation in Florida public schools (P-12) for all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, and to do away with race-based college admissions. He stated in a press release, “With my One Florida Initiative, we can increase opportunity and diversity in the state universities and state contracting without using policies that discriminate or pit one racial group against another.”

According to the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Bush is founder and board chairman of FEE) website “…during his two terms, Bush championed major reform of education in Florida, raised academic standards, required accountability in public schools …created the most ambitious school choice program in the nation …progress is measurable …more high school seniors are earning a diploma …fewer students are dropping out …third through 10th grade students are outscoring 60-70 percent of their peers in all other states in both reading and math.”

Bush recognized a problem, developed a solution, and put it into action. In my opinion, without a strong conviction toward diversity and equity, Bush would not have seen the potential in all students, no matter their class, race, gender, religion, or disability, nor would he have been empathetic or cared enough to want to help the under-served population so they too had a chance to be successful.

Q: What advice would you give to fellow academics and administrators looking to teach diversity and equality and promote it?

A: Be objective. Teach from diverse perspectives – the first-generation Black male, the low-income Hispanic teen, women, disabled Veterans. Tell people’s stories, past and present. Bring in experts to speak. But most importantly, have your students be a part of the discussion by honestly sharing their own experiences, asking hard questions, and having healthy debates so that they become personally vested in the learning process. Finally, initiate community service programs that partner with local schools to get students involved. It is through service that they will be able to see first-hand what a positive impact they can have on the lives of others. Remember, as instructors, our job is to plant the seed. It is the student’s responsibility to take that seed (knowledge) and, hopefully, choose to nurture it and make it grow.

We would like to thank Dr. Hilton for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us.





3 Things High School Students Should Know about College

As the stakes rise regarding the necessity of a high school diploma for lifelong success, so do the standards to earn one. High school students and graduates today must know more than the generations that came before them, both in academic and real-world applications. College, which was once considered an option for some students, is now viewed as a necessity. All of the lesson planning from Kindergarten forward funnels student information into the end goal of high school and college graduation.

While rigorous academics can certainly prepare students for college, which is just one facet of what I believe they should know. There is no way to totally prepare a young adult for the realities of the college experience and what it will mean for his or her long-term success, but there are some things that high school educators should emphasize, including:

1. The cost of a college education. We are so quick to push our students towards a college education that we often forget the practicalities. While in most cases a college degree will pay off in the end, it is expensive upfront and can have an impact on the early years of adulthood. It is flawed thinking to assume that young people with very limited experience with their personal finances will truly be able to comprehend the cost and sacrifice of a college education. Any efforts to better inform students about the responsibility and reality of a college education should not be undertaken as a discouragement but rather as a way to inform them of what those things will mean in real-life settings. Things like estimated college loan repayments, and for how long, should be discussed and put in terms of how many hours of work that money will end up equaling.

2. The importance of a college degree. While it does come at a cost, a college degree is well worth it over the course of a lifetime. People with bachelor degrees earn nearly $1 million more over their lifetimes than their peers who receive high school diplomas. People with master’s degrees earn closer to $1.3 million more. So even the most expensive colleges, if paid out of pocket and through loans, still do not tally up to the lifetime earnings potential of a college graduate versus a high school one. A college degree holds more than financial value though. There is the issue of job stability and security too. By 2018, over 60 percent of jobs will require a college degree and that number is sure to rise. This next generation of K-12 students simply cannot afford to bypass college learning and this should be emphasized to high school students whenever higher education is discussed.

3. The outlook in the industry of interest. From a young age, children are asked the inevitable “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. With stars in their eyes, they talk about the jobs that seem the most glamorous – firefighters, movie stars, doctors and maybe even teachers. While all of these are noble career choices, high school students should have a firm grasp on the field they want to pursue in terms of job opportunities and earning potential. Again, this is not to discourage students from following what they believe to be their calling – but it is a way to guide them into their field of interest with eyes wide open.

Before high school graduates are shipped off to college with dreams of jobs and big paychecks on the other side, they need a reality check. A college degree is a valuable asset but does not come without a cost.

What else should high school students know before they enroll in college?

Are Historically Black Colleges and Universities Worth Saving?

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the debate concerning the relevance and effectiveness of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), now is the time to sit up and take notice. If you don’t, there is a chance it could soon be too late. Over the last two decades, we have seen the number of HBCUs in the United States sharply decline and this greatly concerns me. Those who believe in the benefits of HBCUs need to stand up and let their voices be heard, before these important institutions are gone forever.

HBCUs are coming under fire for everything from not improving their failing infrastructures to producing lower graduation rates, and more. But we need to take a moment to look at why people should pull together, rally around them, and help them make it through turbulent economic times. HBCUs have helped to educate some of the most prominent African American figures in this country’s history, including Jesse Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, and Thurgood Marshall, among many others.

HBCUs provide cultural benefits, as well as providing an affordable education. This cultural foundation has been important to the African American community for over a century. Our HBCUs were there, supporting the community and educating our people, long before other colleges would even let them through the door. So are we saying that, just because mainstream American colleges will now let black students in, we should abandon the institutions that supported us and helped us get to where we are today?

HBCUs are a part of African American tradition, going back generations. They were not only there during the struggle; they helped our people get through it! We owe them our support and respect. They were there for us, and it is time, right now, for us to be there for them.

The biggest reason that HBCUs are fading is because they are often lack sufficient funding, which makes it difficult for them to survive. Without adequate funding, they will end up deteriorating and are apt to become a thing of the past. The low completion rate at HBCUs has also been a contributing factor to their demise. But I believe that it is the other way around: the lack of funding has contributed to the lower graduation rates. HBCUs have to deal with the fact that many of their academically eligible students drop out of college each year because their financial needs cannot be met with Pell Grants and other aid. A large portion of HBCUs have small endowments, so there isn’t a huge rainy day fund to tap into when financial challenges arise.

In my home state of Mississippi, I grew up attending athletic and cultural functions at Tougaloo College, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University. These universities are sources of great pride and a part of the African American intellectual tradition. Now is the time when people who support HBUCs, including advocates, organizations, faculty, students and alumni, need to rally together to help save this historical piece of African American history. If these groups come together and make their voices heard, we will be able to save these institutions. But make no mistake, if there is no rally, if there is no coming together to let the powers-that-be know that we want them saved, then I predict that they will be gone in 50 or so years. And they will not return. Nobody is going to turn back the hands of time and open another historically black college or university, because it wouldn’t be historic. Right now, they are historic, and they need our support and rescue!

Many people are currently asking whether HBCUs are worth saving in the first place. I ask, how can these historical institutions, which represent African American culture, tradition and struggle for educational equality, not be considered worth saving? If they are not worth saving, then it makes it very difficult to find any other piece of African American heritage that is worth saving. These educational institutions are symbols of our people that must not be ignored.

I urge those who care about these institutions to speak out, show your support, and demand that adequate funding be provided to them, so that they can make it through these turbulent economic times. It’s not just about saving a college or university. This is a metaphor for saving ourselves! With proper funding, these schools will thrive, carrying on our culture and traditions as they were meant to do.

In the words of the great Eldridge Cleaver, “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” Which will you be?

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Are Universities Actually Equipping Students with the Tools for Future Success?

Higher education has been charged with a two-pronged approach to equipping students with the tools for future success. Universities must get students ready for employment today and prepare them for a future we can’t see.

How successful are they?

Getting ready for employment today

Real world success depends on whether or not you are prepared for employment after you complete your education. You expect to have obtained a specific set of skills that make you marketable as well as integral in today’s business world.

Businesses expect graduates who not only have developed excellent problem-solving skills and developed an area of expertise but can also work as a collaborative team member who demonstrates competent communication skills.

Universities have it within their power to equip students with the skills they need to compete in the workplace, and they can do it with three things: technology, professors who are competent in their field of study, and a relevant curriculum.

Preparing for a future we can’t see

In addition to teaching university students higher-order thinking skills, most colleges are trying to be relevant not only in today’s world but also in the future. Higher education institutions have been charged with preparing students for a future that has not arrived.

This future will likely include automation and artificial intelligence, but it’s difficult to gauge what that means for all industries and businesses.

Game on 

The University of Sydney is already reaching for the future by requiring hands-on projects, studies in cultural awareness and learning language for improved communication. The additional requirements are lengthening the time it takes to complete an undergraduate degree, but the school is hoping that any drawbacks will be outnumbered by potential benefits.

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County has implemented many innovative strategies designed to be responsive to student need. It focuses on producing T-shaped employees, which it calls “those with deep technical knowledge and broad business and people skills.” To meet this challenge, the school has redesigned courses and increase Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) requirements.

Harvey Mudd University, the private liberal arts college with a STEM focus, considers itself a visionary when it comes to preparing students for their careers, and so do the businesses that hire them. Students sharpen their critical thinking skills and undertake programs requiring deep study. Harvey Mudd may be one of the best schools for preparing students for an unseen future.

These aren’t the only colleges and universities that are preparing students for not only today’s jobs but also a workforce of the future. Many more schools are making significant changes to their programs.

Are universities actually equipping students with the tools for future success?


Key Things to Consider When Choosing a Higher Education Program

If you’re looking at enrolling in a higher education program in the coming months or years, it is important to consider a wide variety of factors. While many people really just look at the academic reputation of a facility, there are many other elements that are just as important and should be weighed up carefully. Before you spend the time and money on a course or program, here are some things you need to look into.


First, it’s important to think about how far you will have to travel from home in order to attend a facility. While students just out of school may be keen to get as far away from their families as possible, doing so does up the costs involved because it takes away the opportunity of still living (and eating) at home. You should also investigate if the campus you’re keen on is actually close to anything else, such as places where you might be able to get a job to help with expenses, or food outlets, accommodation options, nightlife, bookshops, transportation choices, or other resources relevant to your needs.

Location is important for older students, too. If you have a job that you’re trying to fit studying around, it can make a big difference if you find a nearby educational institution and don’t have to add in many extra hours of travel each week. Also, if you have a family and need to be close to home to organize school drop-offs, pick-ups, extra-curricular activities, and the like, you would also likely need to consider the distance a facility will be from your home.

Flexibility of Courses

Another thing to think about when comparing educational providers is how flexible they are. For example, are the programs you’re interested in flexible enough that they will allow you to study all the topics you want or need to learn about, or would you be locked into having to complete many units that aren’t so suitable?

If you need to fit studies in around a job or other commitments, the flexibility on offer at an institution is also key. For example, you may need to find a continuing education program that can be studied online, at any time of the day or night; or you might want to select a course that can be accelerated and finished in, say, two years rather than three. If overseas study is important to you, you should also look into the availability of spending a semester or more abroad during your studies.

Career Support Provided

Something else that a lot of students don’t consider enough when deciding on a campus is the type, and amount, of career support provided by the facility. After all, you’re not just enrolling in a course for the fun of it, but rather to land a promotion, your dream job, or the kind of work experience that will help you to build a successful business. As such, choosing an education provider that is dedicated to helping students find work and build connections is of particular importance.

When comparing institutions, find out if they have a robust careers services center on campus or via an online portal; and try to find out specific information about the number of students per career counselor, and the availability of meetings. You should ask about job fairs, on-campus interviews, networking and alumni groups, internship placements, and the like. It pays to find out about the professors or teachers you will be working closely with too — that is, have they worked in the field themselves, and do they have connections with relevant employers that could be helpful?

University Culture and Facilities

Lastly, take the time to find out about the type of culture you would find yourself amongst if you choose a particular education provider, and the facilities that will be provided. For example, does the campus have a positive school spirit and a sense of community? Is there diversity on campus? Examine whether there seem to be students from many different backgrounds and cultures attending programs, that you could get to know and learn from; and ask yourself whether you would likely be happy and fit in if you attend there.

If you need particular facilities or services in order to be comfortable and/or prosperous at an institution, make sure these will be provided, too. You might need, for instance, to ask about disabled bathrooms, ramps, and parking spots on campus; the safety record of the area and the security provided; sporting facilities and groups; other extracurricular clubs; financial aid and scholarship opportunities; or on-site housing options.

Despite Doubts, MBAs Are More Valuable Than Ever

It isn’t difficult to find online articles casting doubts on MBAs. A typically American degree program designed to prepare the ambitious for careers in business leadership, the MBA has been a useful tool in securing high-profile jobs for more than a century. Yet, recently, the proliferation of the two-year business school degree amongst job applicants has convinced many so-called experts that employers simply aren’t wowed by MBAs any longer.

Of course, this is far from true. In fact, a recent study performed by the Graduate Management Admissions Council found that more than 86 percent of employers around the globe are eager to hire MBA grads. That rate rises above 90 percent in the United States and Far East, including China and Japan. Not only is their unemployment rate remarkably low, but MBA-holders also enjoy higher salaries than their less-educated, less-experienced peers: Nearly half of all MBAs report a base salary of nearly $125,000, and another third of MBAs earn between $100,000 and $125,000, while the national average for income hovers around $30,000.

It should be obvious that MBAs remain valuable in the job market. Though the cost of living and tuition prices have increased in recent years, education is more available than ever before. Now, workers can apply to top online MBA programs and while maintaining their full-time employment — bettering their career prospects without creating a two-year gap in their work experience. Plus, MBAs continue to be the best way for workers to prepare for higher-level positions because the programs provide students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need as business leaders, including:

Business Strategy

How does an entrepreneur begin a business? How does a business leader create growth? These questions and others regarding business strategy don’t have intuitive answers. Because every business situation is unique, prospective leaders must be equipped with the right knowledge and experience to create an effective strategy under specific circumstances. During MBA studies, students are programmed to approach scenarios strategically, considering all variables and options before solving problems; therefore, MBA grads are more effective long-term leaders in business.

Communication and Collaboration

Communication is the most important skill for any relationship, but business leaders must master written and verbal communication strategies if they expect to successfully manage their teams. Though the abilities to communicate and to collaborate are often seen as innate, the truth is only thorough practice makes a person great at expressing ideas and working with others. Fortunately, top online MBA programs teach future leaders effective communication methods, especially business jargon and writing techniques mandatory for upper-level managers.

Research and Analysis

Big data is becoming such an integral tool for modern businesses that all potential leaders must have some experience compiling and using data before they find employment. MBA students spend much of their time researching and analyzing all sorts of business data, from descriptive and diagnostic sets to predictive and prescriptive sets. By the time they graduate, most MBAs are near-experts in using data to make informed decisions, and many feel comfortable accumulating and organizing data, as well.


Though not a hard business skill, the ability of a business leader to see potential benefit in every relationship is a significant boon for employers. Hiring a worker with many business connections gives businesses greater access to high-quality resources, including funding, vendors, and even new talent. If nothing else, MBA programs are mills for tight-knit, exceedingly successful networks, and grads inevitably make links with peers, professors, and successful professionals, which they can take advantage of for future business success.

Project and Risk Management

Business is inherently risky, but experienced and educated business leaders understand how to mitigate the worst risks while achieving success. Properly organizing projects and assigning priority to certain tasks is a primary method for lowering risk. MBA students receive theoretical and practical training in risk and project management: Within their courses, they learn the correct strategies, and in balancing their course loads, they receive sufficient experience applying those strategies.

Technical Ability

While excellent business leaders have plenty of strong soft skills, to be effective in their jobs, they must also have the technical skill to use common business tools and methods. MBA programs — especially the online variety — compel students to use the devices and software they will most likely manipulate in their future careers. Being familiar with such tools dramatically reduces a leaders’ training time and makes them more effective, sooner.




Does it pay to get a double major in college?

Christos Makridis, Stanford University

Students are bombarded with an array of competing opportunities during college, all with the promise that each will lead to a better job or higher earnings upon entering the “real world.”

One such option is the double major, in which a student earns two bachelor degrees at once, sometimes in entirely different disciplines. But will doing so lead to a higher-paying job? Is it worth the “lost” time that could have been spent in other activities such as internships or student government?

In college, I earned several degrees, which led to a broader education that I believe enriched the quality and creativity of my thinking and improved my career prospects. As an economist-in-training, however, I wanted hard data to back up my anecdotal experience.

To do this, I crunched some numbers from the Census Bureau on over two million full-time workers and analyzed them to see if there’s a connection between earning multiple degrees and financial gain in the years following graduation.

Double-majoring on the decline?

While double majors have been a popular way to balance a deep study of the humanities with traditional degrees in the sciences, basic tabulations suggest that the percent of workers with a double major has been roughly constant, or even decreasing, over the past six years depending on how one restricts the sample.

For example, looking at all individuals between ages 20 and 29, only 12.5 percent of the population had a double major in 2015, which is down from 14.2 percent in 2009, according to my calculations from the American Community Survey (ACS) Census data. At the same time, the percent of workers within the same age range with any kind of college degree grew from roughly 23 to 36 percent.

On the one hand, double-majoring can help students avoid becoming overly specialized, exposing them to new ways of thinking and communicating with others outside their primary area. On the other, it creates a trade-off with other educational opportunities.

In 2013, the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment went so far as to urge universities to “narrow student choice” to promote degree completion – perhaps by restricting or even banning the completion of double majors.

While the number of college graduates in the workforce is growing, the number of double majors is shrinking.
Francesco Corticchia/Shutterstock

What existing research says

Previous research on whether a double major pays off has shown mixed results.

A 2011 paper found that a double major, on average, yields a 3.2 percent earnings premium over a peer with only one degree. The paper noted that the premium ranged from nothing at liberal arts colleges to almost 4 percent at “research and comprehensive” universities.

A more recent study, published in 2016, concluded that liberal arts students who tacked on a second degree in either business or a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field earned somewhat more than their single-major peers. But the authors noted that there was no premium when compared with a single STEM or business degree.

Both of these papers, however, are based on relatively small cross-sections of individuals, which makes them less representative and limits their statistical power. In addition, they focus on single years – 2003 and 2010, respectively – which means the results may be affected by any transient economic conditions that occurred that year.

What my research showed

In my own analysis, I examined data on over two million full-time workers aged 20 to 65 over a six-year period (2009-2015) using Census Bureau data. The bureau provides the largest source of publicly available information on individuals and households, helping to ensure that the analysis is both representative and detailed. The data set included information on each individual’s earnings, occupation, undergraduate degrees and a wide range of other demographic data.

My results showed that liberal arts students who take on a second degree in a STEM field earned, on average, 9.5 percent more than their liberal arts peers with only one major, after controlling for individual demographic factors, such as age, years of schooling, marital status, gender, family size and race. Students who combined a liberal arts degree with a business major earned 7.9 percent more.

You might be thinking that this isn’t really a surprise. Of course STEM majors will earn more than their liberal arts counterparts. While my analysis already controls for the fact that STEM and business majors generally earn more than their counterparts, I wanted to dig a little deeper. So I restricted the sample to compare STEM-liberal arts double majors with those with a single STEM degree. Although the premium shrinks, engineers and scientists who take on an extra liberal arts degree earned 3.6 percent more, on average.

I also wanted to see if the premium exists when comparing people in similar occupations. For example, consider two journalism school grads, one with a single degree, the other with a second in engineering. Naturally the one who becomes a working journalist, which generally pays poorly, will earn less than his classmate who decided journalism wasn’t for her and got a job at Google.

So, controlling for occupation, I found that the returns to double-majoring in liberal arts and STEM were 5.2 percent, and 3.4 percent with a business degree. In other words, even when we look within narrow occupational categories, those who double-majored across fields tended to earn more than those with a single degree.

So should I double major?

So for those of you about to head to college, should you go for a double major? Or should you advise it to your kids?

As with anything, it depends. I tried to make my analysis as robust as possible, but it’s still not entirely clear whether the connection between the double degrees and higher earnings is causal. However, my results do suggest it’s more than mere correlation.

Furthermore, an association with higher earnings doesn’t mean the double major is right for everyone, particularly since the premium varies based on an individual’s own career path and preferences. Every college student needs to weigh the pros and cons of every potential opportunity, from picking up a second degree to joining student government.

The ConversationMy research suggests, however, that students who are eager to expose themselves to more frames of thinking and disciplinary knowledge may well be investing in the very foundation that prepares them for a successful and innovative career.

Christos Makridis, Ph.D. Candidate in Labor and Public Economics, Stanford University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Myth of the College Dropout

Jonathan Wai, Duke University and Heiner Rindermann, Chemnitz University of Technology

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was asked to give this year’s commencement address at Harvard, he asked for advice from Bill Gates.

Zuckerberg said, “They know we didn’t actually graduate, right?”

To which Gates replied, “Oh, that is the best part! They actually give you a degree!”

This recent exchange between two famous Harvard dropouts might lead you to think college doesn’t matter. Numerous media stories and even famous billionaires are glamorizing dropouts or encouraging kids to skip college entirely.

While it’s true there are successful college dropouts, statistically speaking, they are not the norm. As researchers in education and talent, we found that the vast majority of the country’s success stories are college graduates, such as Sheryl Sandberg (Harvard), Jeff Bezos (Princeton) and Marissa Mayer (Stanford).

The myth of the mega-successful college dropout

In a recent study, we investigated how many of the wealthiest and most influential people graduated college. We studied 11,745 U.S. leaders, including CEOs, federal judges, politicians, multi-millionaires and billionaires, business leaders and the most globally powerful men and women.

We also examined how many people graduated from an “elite school.” (Our definition included the eight Ivy League schools, plus many of the top national universities and liberal arts colleges consistently high in the U.S. News rankings for both undergraduate and graduate education.)

We found about 94 percent of these U.S. leaders attended college, and about 50 percent attended an elite school. Though almost everyone went to college, elite school attendance varied widely. For instance, only 20.6 percent of House members and 33.8 percent of 30-millionaires attended an elite school, but over 80 percent of Forbes’ most powerful people did. For whatever reason, about twice as many senators – 41 percent – as House members went to elite schools.

For comparison, based on census and college data, we estimate that only about 2 to 5 percent of all U.S. undergraduates went to one of the elite schools in our study. The people from our study attended elite schools at rates well above typical expectations.

Do elite schools matter?

This year, elite schools saw an increase in applications and selectivity. Research suggests there is no difference in adult income between students who attended highly selective schools and students with similar SAT scores who attended less selective schools. At least for long-term earnings, where you go may not be critical, as long as you attend and graduate.

Yet, our data show that for students with talent and motivation to make it to the top of U.S. society, an elite college might just help you get there – whether it’s the networks you acquire or the brand on your resume.

While looking at over 11,000 successful leaders, we rarely encountered people who came from extremely poor or disadvantaged backgrounds. Helping disadvantaged talented students enter elite schools could promote diversity among future leaders.

Princeton University had a record-setting number of applicants for its class of 2021.
Sindy Lee / flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

College matters

Admittedly, the educational path of the cream of the crop may not apply to most people. So, going to college may not be the right or even the best path for everyone. However, if you’re a student thinking about not going to college or considering dropping out, remember that even Gates and Zuckerberg got into college. Even if you’re not aiming for mega success, doing the work to get into and graduate from college today may open important doors.

The ConversationPerhaps in the future, college may not be as important to employers. But for now, college dropouts who rule the world are rare exceptions – not the rule.

Jonathan Wai, Research Scientist, Duke University and Heiner Rindermann, Professor of Educational and Developmental Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Diversity In Higher Education Should be More than a Buzzword

Diversity is often spoken of as a goal of leadership in some of the country’s most prominent higher education institutions. But paying lip service to the concept doesn’t always translate into action. The problem is that, by failing to take action, a lack of diversity means college students are missing out on unique opportunities that may only present in environments that promote racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and even socio-economic diversity within their constructs.

However, as a term, “diversity” often brings anxiety. There is little agreement about which methods actually promote diversity in higher education, as well as for measuring the outcomes associated with a more diverse educational environment.

In some research, diversity within social groups can lead to decreased communication, discomfort, greater perceived interpersonal conflict, and other issues that lead to more challenging interactions. But, diversity is also recognized to bring something very important to the table: creativity.

More Experience, More Innovation

A diverse group, such as a student body, class, or work group, has a larger range of personal experience. This widens the cumulative perspective of the participants, giving them a larger frame of reference when solving problems. Additionally, there is an increased likelihood that the strengths of one member will balance the weaknesses of another.

As a whole, a diverse population often has access to more information than a similarly sized, but homogenous group. That allows a more diverse group to reach greater levels of innovation and problem-solving.

For example, if the goal was to design a new skyscraper, choosing a team of students who all major in architecture could lead to shortcomings. Even though knowledge of architecture will play a key role, involvement from other majors, like engineering, would lead to a better end result.

Often, it can be challenging for individuals to account properly for the needs or preferences of those not like them. It isn’t intentional so much as a lack of differing perspective. When asked to solve a problem, an individual only has their own experience and knowledge with which to work. Since that leaves them operating in an inherently limited fashion, their response will reflect only their personal narrative.

Diversity Implies Differences

In some cases, the simple implication of diversity being a factor can produce more favorable results. It isn’t uncommon for individuals to assume that an apparently more diverse group will have key differences in experience and perspective.

Often, these unconscious assumptions (or biases) are automatically considered negative as they are the results of judgments made on limited information. However, when a group that perceives itself as diverse works together, the assumption of differences can actually lead to great innovation when the group is motivated to work together. Since the participants assume it will be more challenging to reach a consensus, most unconsciously prepare to work harder than if they were faced with the same task with a more homogenous team. And, ultimately, increased effort often yields better results.

Diversity Supports Diversity

People automatically feel more comfortable when there is someone like them already in an organization, including educational institutions like colleges and universities. In fact, minority populations often cite diversity as an important factor when evaluating employers, and likely have a similar sentiment when selecting colleges or universities.

When schools are working to attract the most talented students from across the country, having a more diverse student body and faculty can be a benefit that attracts the best and brightest regardless of their background. And once diversity is established as part of the paradigm, it is often self-perpetuating.