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Howard University is opening a campus at Google to train black coders

By Amy X. Wang

Google the words ”black coders” and “Silicon Valley” together, and you’ll find a litany of stories unfurling the same narrative:

It repeats because it’s true; the tech mecca of the US has an overwhelming diversity problem, already sorely evident from the fact that most tech businesses are run by white or Asian men. When peering at the race breakdown for non-top-level jobs, like engineering or coding, the numbers become even starker. African Americans—who comprise 13% of the US population—make up just 1% of technical employees at prominent Silicon Valley companies like Facebook.

Google, where that figure is about the same, is going after a solution that’s about as unsubtle as it gets.

The company announced on March 23 that it’s opening a new campus at its Mountain View, California, headquarters specifically for computer-science students from Howard University, one of the country’s most prestigious historically black universities, located on the other side of the country in Washington DC.

Around 30 Howard juniors and seniors will fly out later this year for a 12-week program at “Howard West,” taught by senior Google engineers, which may also be expanded down the line. The program requires no extra tuition, and students will be given housing support and living stipends. Howard expects to graduate roughly 30 computer-science majors this year.

Screenshot / Google blog

Google’s new deal with Howard is part of its existing Googler-in-Residence program, which promotes coding at seven historically black universities in the US. The goal is much more elemental than improving the black coder recruiting pipeline: it’s to spark interest that doesn’t even exist yet.

According to a survey (pdf) from the Computing Research Association, only 5% of people graduating with computer-science or computer-engineering degrees are black.