By Grace Austin

The lack of minorities receiving graduate degrees in business is a growing problem, affecting the number of qualified candidates in the corporate job market. The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, with leadership from CEO Peter Aranda, has attempted to curb this trend and increase rates of MBA candidates since its inception in 1966.

The non-profit group of leading business schools, including Cornell, Yale and the University of Michigan, works to increase the presence of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans in MBA programs and the corporate world. Since its founding, The Consortium has handed out more than $20 million in merit-based scholarships each year to more than 300 MBA candidates with outstanding academic credentials who also show a commitment to diversity.

In the early ‘60s, Professor Sterling Schoen of Washington University in St. Louis envisioned a program that would develop African-American, male MBA candidates. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded a feasibility conference attended by 60 influential educators and leaders from the African-American community. They determined that The Consortium was both plausible and necessary. The Consortium was then established in 1966 as an innovative program designed to hasten the entry of African-American men into management positions in business.

The first Consortium class consisted of 21 African-American men; the organization was supported by 27 corporate sponsors. After 1970, in keeping with the progressive philosophy on which the organization was founded, the mission evolved to include women and, shortly thereafter, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.

Aranda is the first Consortium alumnus to lead the organization in its 46-year history, bringing to his role previous business achievement, academic experience and a diverse ancestry that is a mix of Mexican, Native American (Cherokee and Otomi) and Jewish.

When Aranda became CEO of The Consortium nearly eight years ago, the percentage of minorities in the nation’s top 50 business schools was roughly 6%. Today, it’s exactly the same. Typically, though, the 17 schools in The Consortium report minority MBA enrollments that are 38% higher than non-Consortium business schools.

So why are levels of minority enrollment so low? Aranda blames it on societal issues and top business school rankings.

“The current status of minority communities tend to have large portions of the population still at the poverty level and high dropout rates from high school. We still have to make up ground from past discrimination, and we still have repercussions that are affecting these communities today. The second challenge is due to business school rankings. There is a tendency to put weight on the GMAT score, which is unnecessarily warranted. The GMAT is an aptitude test, not an intelligence test. By and large students from a wealthier background tend to have opportunities to take the test multiple times and spend more money on test prep. Statistically, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans tend to score less on the GMAT tests than their counterparts.”

The future looks hopeful, though, as The Consortium continues to grow its numbers and receives generous support from corporate America and the nation’s top schools. Under Aranda, last year’s 340 students at orientation was a record high for the organization.

“The corporate community embraces this need for minority professionals that are well-qualified and they support us through funding our fellowship program, summer internships and post-graduate opportunities for our students. Our model is working,” said Aranda.

He is hesitant to concede success though, knowing there is much more to do to increase minority MBA numbers.
As Aranda relates, “I wish we could do more, and I wish there were more organizations like The Consortium out there helping to make this go faster.”