February 1, 2002

New Report Shows Benefits of Diversity in the Classroom and the Workplace; Risks of Not Using Talents of All Americans

Diversity benefits all students on college and university campuses and the benefits are transferred to the workplace when students enter the labor market, a coalition of top corporate CEOs and college leaders concluded in a report that was released in San Diego on Jan. 19.

"Education in a diverse environment enhances the creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills that graduates bring to their jobs," San Diego Community College District Chancellor Augustine Gallego said as he quoted from the new report.

Gallego, who served on the nationwide taskforce that developed the report, unveiled the report findings and conclusions in San Diego as keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Educators' Breakfast held at Christ United Presbyterian Church of San Diego.

The report, "Investing in People: Developing All of America's Talent on Campus and in the Workplace," also warns that the nation faces social and economic crisis unless America succeeds in promoting and taking advantage of racial and ethnic diversity.

"Not surprising to any of us in California, the nation's minority population is steadily increasing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," Gallego said. "At the same time, however, members of racial and ethnic minority groups continue to lag behind whites in educational attainment. If this trend continues, the nation will face a crisis of workforce skills and knowledge."

The report notes that between 1990 and 2000, the minority population nationwide grew by 35 percent, while the white population increased by only 3.4 percent. In terms of educational attainment, while 28 percent of whites had completed at least four years of college in 2000, only 17 percent of African Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics had done so.

By 2028, it is estimated that there will be 19 million more jobs than adequately trained workers to fill them. About 40 percent of the available workers will be individuals from a racial or ethnic minority groups.

"Minorities have made some gains in education in the last 20 years but still too few are going to college, graduating from colleges, and earning degrees in science, engineering and technical fields," Gallego told the audience.

The disparities in educational completion rates stem in a great part from disparities in the distribution of educational resources, the report states. Gallego explained, "Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely than whites to come from poorer families that live in neighborhoods with schools that have the least experienced teachers. The quality of teaching is considered the most important school-based variable for ensuring high academic achievement."

In addition to releasing the "Investing in People" report in San Diego, Gallego participated in an unveiling of the report earlier in January in New York City. At that event, Stephen Butler, chairman and chief executive officer of KPMG LLP, said "Diversity is an invaluable competitive asset that America cannot afford to ignore. Demographic trends compel business and higher education to make a conscious investment in the development of the talent and productivity of all citizens."

The report calls on business and educational leaders, policy makers, and the general public to become actively involved in promoting and expanding diversity efforts. It offers several steps to foster diversity, and Chancellor Gallego outlined "some of the particularly important ones," at the MLK Educators' Breakfast. They include:
Support and strengthen outreach programs that help minority youth to prepare for and to succeed in college.

Provide more resources to ensure that teachers are properly prepared to teach students from various racial and ethnic groups.

Urge colleges and universities to consider a variety of factors in their admissions policies and not to rely too heavily on test scores and grades.

Encourage private sources such as foundations to provide support for programs that improve diversity.

Create partnerships between education and business leaders to promote discussion and joint action to achieve diversity on campus and in business.

The report is the work of a special Diversity Initiative Task Force convened by the Business-Higher Education Forum in 1999 to explore issues related to racial and ethnic diversity in America. The Forum is a partnership of the National Alliance of Business and the American Council on Education, which addresses issues of concern to both the higher education and business communities.

While serving on the task force, Gallego saw strong support for diversity among the nation's business leaders. He said, "It was particularly gratifying to hear CEOs of major corporations say that diversity is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do because it improves business competitiveness." Gallego added, "What we finally realize on college campuses and in business is that diversity benefits all of us. As Dr. King said, `whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.'"

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