Washington, DC—As part of an ongoing study exploring attrition from the pursuit of an architectural license by women and people of color, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) released a new report underscoring survey findings regarding disparities in architecture education. The report reveals findings from a survey of NOMA members and NCARB Record holders, which indicate that more Black or African American women indicate a negative experience with “campus culture” impediments at every stage of their collegiate experience compared to their white male peers. More than half of these respondents indicated this drove them to consider a different career path.

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The Baseline on Belonging: Education Report is the third full report in the organizations’ joint study on diversity and attrition along the path to licensure. The report explores survey data regarding experiences completing a post-secondary degree in architecture, including impediments related to cost, program culture, and curriculum. The data consistently indicate that Black or African American female respondents indicate they do not receive the same level of support or inclusion as reported by their peers.

The co-chairs of NOMA’s e3: EDUCATE initiative—one of the pillars of NOMA President Jason Pugh’s, AIA, AICP, NOMA, LEED AP, e3: Educate, Elevate, and Empower program—provided insight into the report’s key findings:

“Two standout areas identified as negatively impacting education of Black or African Americans are school culture and lack of financial support. While these two areas seem different in nature, they both carry significant weight and should be recognized as such when considering one’s motivation toward an architectural education,” said co-chair Annicia Streete, NOMA.

“The joint report reveals that belonging and diversity and inclusion are critical cultural aspects of education for Black and African American respondents. The Black and African American respondents did not feel as strongly that they belonged, because they do not believe their architecture schools valued diversity and inclusion,” said co-chair Dr. Kwesi Daniels PhD, NOMA.

The report also highlights reported disparities in affordability and culture between graduates of National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited programs and graduates of non-accredited architecture programs. Thirty-eight of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions currently require that applicants for licensure earn a degree in architecture from a program accredited by the NAAB. NAAB-accredited programs typically include an investment of time and tuition beyond that of a four-year undergraduate program.

“The Baseline on Belonging study highlights the need for two key efforts already underway at NCARB: Exploring additional, accessible pathways to entry into the architecture profession, and the urgent need for the entire architecture community to not only address disparities faced by underrepresented students but to take actions now,” said NCARB President Alfred Vidaurri Jr., NCARB, NOMA, FAIA.

The Baseline on Belonging: Education Report emphasizes the importance of ongoing discussions surrounding the accessibility of higher education. On average, NCARB’s data shows that it takes 12.3 years to earn an architecture license—nearly half of which are spent in school. Results from the survey reflect that graduates of NAAB-accredited programs have a 20-percentage point higher likelihood than those of non-accredited programs to indicate that they were negatively impacted by their program’s tuition, as well as 9 percentage points less likely to report that their education prepared them for a career in architecture. These findings suggest that consideration of a more accessible and affordable entry point into the profession is essential.

The Baseline on Belonging survey was released in 2020 to over 70,000 individuals and received over 5,000 complete responses (including over 2,800 from people of color and nearly 2,500 from women). The education report highlighted several key findings for additional study and exploration: 

  • Women were less likely to report having professors who support their educational and career goals, with African American women 13 percentage points more likely to say a lack of access to professors or mentors had a negative impact on their college experience.
  • African American women were significantly more likely to report facing barriers related to their architecture school’s culture. Compared to white men, African American women were 12 percentage points more likely to consider not pursuing a career in architecture while in school and 20 percentage points less likely to feel like they belonged.
  • Graduates from NAAB-accredited programs were more likely to report a variety of problems related to their school’s culture, including being 10 percentage points more likely to say their program’s culture had a negative impact; this is likely due to the overwhelming majority of licensees holding degrees from NAAB-accredited programs.
  • The cost of studying architecture was frequently cited as a barrier for students, especially when considering future salaries. “I wasn't sure my pay would ever compensate me for the student loans I had to take. Advancement seems reserved for the privileged who both look the part and are comfortable navigating cultures largely foreign to people of color,” reported one survey participant.

Previously, NCARB and NOMA released the Baseline on Belonging: Experience Report and Baseline on Belonging: Examination Report, which identified the effects that race, ethnicity, gender, age, and firm size can have on candidates completing the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) and Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). Together, these reports provide insight into key areas that impact emerging professionals at each step of the path to earning an architecture license. NCARB and NOMA will use the findings to prompt widespread action throughout the profession to address these pinch points.

In March, NCARB and NOMA will conduct focus groups to further explore key findings from the reports and begin identifying solutions. To learn more about next steps and how to participate in further study, subscribe to our mailing list.

To learn more about the Baseline on Belonging study and download the full report, visit www.ncarb.org/belong.