Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

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Report Brief

Investing in People: Developing All of America's Talent on Campus and in the Workplace


This report is the result of an initiative launched by the Business-Higher Education Forum to discuss the importance of racial and ethnic diversity as factors that continue to shape America's civic, social, and economic life. Members of the forum believe there exists a strong linkage between the benefits and rewards of diversity in higher education and in the workforce. The report was issued with three key purposes: to review research that supports the value of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in business and higher education, to call attention to programs and strategies that foster diversity, and to offer recommendations that business and academe can implement, separately or jointly.


Diversity Demographics

  • Increasing proportions of Americans from diverse backgrounds (data from the 2000 census), coupled with increasing technological advances and changing economic trends suggest the importance of the ability to engage in diverse perspectives.
    • The minority population has increased by 35% in the last ten years (1990 to 2000) compared with 3.4% of the white population. (Specifically, Hispanics by 58%, Asian Americans by 50%, and African Americans by 16%.)
  • Changes in student diversity show 28% of whites complete a bachelor degree, while less than 17% of African Americans and 11% of Hispanics complete their bachelor degrees.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, experts predict that the age of students attending college will increase by 16% and that 80% of this new prospective student population will be non-white, and of this 80% close to half will be Hispanic.
  • African American and Hispanic students will attend college in disproportionate numbers to their percentage of the college age population, as stated by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Further, only the Asian American student will attend college in true proportions to their percentage of the college age population.
  • A changing and more complex workforce necessitates the need for skills and knowledge beyond high school. It is predicted that by 2028 there will be 19 million more jobs than individuals who are adequately prepared to fill them.

Why Diversity Matters

  • Evidence shows that encountering a range of racial, ethnic, and cultural perspectives on campus enhances students' preparation for full participation in a diverse democratic society.
  • Evidence shows that students who are exposed to people with a range of backgrounds and ideas are better critical thinkers, and also show greater social and interpersonal development than students with less exposure to diversity.
  • The benefits for college students who are exposed to racial and ethnic diversity carry over into the workforce in a number of skills; specifically, enhanced creativity, tolerance, innovation, problem-solving skills, the ability to think critically, and understand multiple points of view.

Responding to the Current Challenges of Diversity

  • In order to successfully prepare students for a future, the nation must change the inequities that exist in the availability of educational resources particularly for inner-city and rural schools. Further, the nation must increase the availability of financial aid for students who need it, develop programs that increase the awareness of first generation college students and their families about preparing for, applying to, and attending college, promote and develop campus environments that value diversity, and increase enrollment of minority populations in higher education.


The members of the Forum make the following recommendations both in business and academe.

  • Support and strengthen existing outreach programs that focus on the value of attending college, ways to prepare students and assist them in applying for and attending college, and the importance of lifelong learning.
  • Provide the resources to ensure that teachers are prepared to work effectively with racially and ethnically diverse students.
  • Review current strategies and policies designed to foster diversity and ensure that they are meeting their goals, and publicize the results of these reviews in the higher education and business communities.
  • Advocate that colleges and universities take the whole person into account when making decisions; that is, consider all relevant qualities not just grades and test scores in assessing each applicant.
  • Encourage corporate foundations to provide support for diversity initiatives, and to share the programs and their results with professional peers.
  • As part of the business employee recruitment process, emphasize to campuses the importance of being able to recruit personnel from a diverse student body.
  • Urge national policy makers to increase the amount of the Pell Grant to its congressionally authorized annual maximum of $5,800 per student.
  • Strengthen learning outcomes, through continuous assessment and application of promising practices, in the nation's elementary and secondary schools.
  • Encourage university governing boards and state policy makers to give priority to increasing the amount of need-based aid, even in the face of competing legislative agendas and state university budget cuts.
  • Create state and/or local coalitions between education and business leaders to promote discussion and joint action to achieve diversity and tolerance on campus and in business.
  • Provide awareness, in all appropriate forums, of the broad range of successful practices that open opportunity to, and strengthen the quality of, education.


American Council on Education. (2002). Investing in people: Developing all of America's talent on campus and in the workplace. Washington, DC: Author.

Submitted by R.M. Johnson, March 2004. This is a report summary and excerpts are quoted directly from the text.

The campanile

Iowa State was the first chartered land-grant institution.