RAPID: The Impact of COVID-19 on Broadening Participation in Engineering at HBCUs Grant

RAPID: The Impact of COVID-19 on Broadening Participation in Engineering at HBCUs .


  • COVID-19 spurs an unprecedented global crisis disrupting life as we know it, affecting the overall economy, and abruptly transmuting the traditional methods, experiences and abilities of higher education institutions’ faculty, staff and students. With strict social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state governments across the country, colleges and universities are forced to abruptly transition to forms of remote instruction. For Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), smaller endowments to pull from and historic inequity from state and federal funding sources have exacerbated the negative impact of COVID-19. While HBCUs enroll a significant percentage of first-generation and low-income students, they award a disproportionately greater share of degrees to minority students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Specifically, HBCU engineering programs graduated 20.3% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks and permanent residents in engineering in the U.S. between 2002 and 2012, although they only make up 0.02% of all ABET accredited programs. High-touch student support and a sense of belonging displayed at HBCUs, through faculty and peer mentoring, in addition to a myriad of supplemental programming, have been credited with the heightened sense of community reported by students, faculty and staff. With limited contact to students, COVID-19 has introduced a new set of challenges for HBCU students, faculty and staff, especially those majoring in or working closely to STEM academic areas, who have higher requirements linked to labs, hardware (e.g., laptops), software and internet access. As students, faculty and staff within engineering programs are dealing with multiple challenges at once, this project will allow these experiences to be captured now and not lost over time. The goal of this project is to collect information from engineering stakeholders at HBCUs related to COVID-19 and its impact on engineering education at HBCUs. Through this process, the following research question will be answered: How has COVID-19 impacted the success and persistence of engineering students, faculty and staff at historically Black colleges and universities A core research team at FIU and a group of experts in engineering and STEM from HBCUs (HBCU Knowledge Partners) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) will collaborate on a three phased project: Phase I: COVID-19 Impact on Engineering Stakeholders Survey (administered electronically), Phase II: detailed analysis and discussion of results – stakeholder and institutional implications, and Phase III: development of a cross-collaborative network between HBCU engineering programs. By gaining information from stakeholders related to the impact of this unprecedented event on their success and persistence, the research will add to the literature by demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on engineering and STEM education at HBCUs. This study will provide insight around the type of support and partnerships that can be cultivated within engineering education at HBCUs to ensure on-going success and sustainability post COVID-19. By understanding the impact of COVID-19 at HBCUs, findings can be generalized to support other stakeholders and then disseminated to the broader engineering community.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • May 15, 2020 - May 31, 2022

sponsor award ID

  • 2031221