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The Top 100: Interpreting The Data

By Dr. Victor M. H. Borden, Pamela C. Brown and Amy K. Garver

Much attention in higher education is being paid to the need to close the enrollment and attainment gap between minority and White students at the baccalaureate level. This focus is not misguided — after all, if students don’t make it through the K-12 pipeline and go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree, earning a graduate degree is out of the question. However, in a world where post-baccalaureate education is increasingly required for entry into positions of influence, one could argue that the attainment gap at this level is even more critical for improving social equity.

Black Issues examines the Top 100 institutions that awarded graduate degrees during the 2003-2004 academic year. As with our recent baccalaureate analysis, we base this analysis on “preliminary” data collected by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). For all of the institutions that are included in the analysis, the preliminary data are complete and accurate. The analysis is restricted to Title IV eligible institutions located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia that award post-baccalaureate degrees.

Colleges and universities submit their degree counts to NCES through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which is a Web-based survey that requires institutions to categorize their degree programs according to the national Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code system. While there is no such thing as a perfect mapping system, the CIP codes allow us to make fairly reliable comparisons across institutions, regardless of differences in local practices.

Similarly, student race/ethnicity is collected through a set of standard federal categories: non-resident alien; Black, non- Hispanic, American or Alaskan Native; Asian or Pacific Islander; Hispanic; White, non-Hispanic; and race/ethnicity unknown. Only U.S. citizens or permanent residents are included in the “minority” categories. Students self-report their racial/ethnic identity according to whatever local convention is used at their institution. Institutional staff determine how to “map” their categories to the standard federal ones, which allow for only one racial/ethnic identification per student. Although this practice does not align with the more flexible “multi-identification” practices now used by the federal government in the population census, new reporting guidelines have yet to be developed for IPEDS or any other federal educational reporting systems.

Top 100 lists are presented for each post-graduate degree level (master’s, first professional and doctoral) and each racial/ethnic group. The lists follow the same structure as used in the bachelor’s analysis, with the prior year total followed by the current year (2003-2004) figures for men, women and overall. The first percentage column represents the current year total degrees for the specific racial/ethnic group as a percent of the total degrees awarded in that area. The second percentage column reflects the change in degrees conferred to that racial ethnic group from 2002-2003 to 2003-2004. 

Subsequent lists present the Top 50 institutions that confer degrees to each minority group in a select set of disciplines. The disciplines reflect aggregate groupings according to the CIP code system mentioned above. For example, the degrees reported by an institution in political science, economics, anthropology, sociology and geography all fall within the more general category of social and behavioral sciences. An interactive list of the CIP Code aggregate categories and their constituent components is available on the NCES Web site <>.

Ten-Year Changes in Graduate Degree Disciplines
In this year’s analysis, we focus attention on changes over the last 10 years (from 1993-1994 to 2003-2004) in the disciplinary areas in which members of each racial/ethnic group attained degrees. Toward this end, we present three fairly dense tables, one each for master’s degrees, doctoral degrees and first professional degrees. For summary purposes, we have further aggregated the master’s and doctoral degree disciplinary areas into the following categories:

Category Components:  Agricultural Sciences: Agricultural Business and Production; Agricultural Sciences; Conservation and Renewable Natural Resources;  Business: Marketing; Operations/Marketing and Distribution; Business Management and Administrative Services;  Education and Human Services: Education; Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies; Protective Services; Public Administration and Services; Health Professions: Health Professions and Related Sciences;  Humanities and Fine Arts: Liberal Arts and Sciences; General Studies; Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies; Foreign Languages and Literatures; English Language and Literature/Letters; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; Philosophy and Religion; Visual and Performing Arts; Other Professions: Architecture and Related Programs; Communications Home Economics, General; Vocational Home Economics; Law and Legal Studies; Library Science; Theological Studies and Religious Vocations; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Communications Technologies; Computer and Information Sciences; Engineering and Engineering-Related Technologies; Biological Sciences/Life Sciences; Mathematics; Military Technologies; Physical Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences:  Psychology; Social Sciences and History.

For the first professional degrees, we list separately four specific degree areas: divinity, law, medicine and dentistry. The final category includes other medicine and health-related degrees, including chiropractic, osteopathic, acupuncture/Far Eastern, alternative and veterinary medicines, as well as optometry, pharmacy and podiatry.

For each degree-level table, degree conferrals in the aggregate disciplinary categories are shown separately for each racial/ethnic group. The master’s degree table first shows the degrees conferred in these categories to African-Americans in 1994 and in 2004. The third column of this table shows the percentage growth over the 10-year period. The second set of three columns shows changes in the representation of each racial/ethnic group among all degree recipients.

For example, in 1994 African-Americans represented 7.7 percent of all students receiving a master’s degree in an education and human services discipline. By 2004, African-American representation among degree recipients in the disciplines included in this area increased to 9.9 percent, representing an increase in representation of 2.2 percentage points. Each section of the table is sorted according to 2004 representation (the second to last column). 

More than twice as many master’s degrees were conferred to African-Americans in 2004 than in 1994. Concurrently, the representation of African-Americans among master’s degree recipients increased from 5.4 percent to 8.1 percent. The largest percentage growth in master’s degrees conferred to African-Americans occurred in the health and business areas, although the largest number of master’s degrees are still conferred in the education and human services disciplines. Health professions represented the largest growth area for each minority group, with the number of master’s degrees conferred almost tripling in 10 years among Hispanics and Asian Americans. With the exception of Asian Americans, minority representation remains relatively low in “STEM” disciplines (science, technologies, engineering and math). It is promising to see that there were modest increases in STEM-related master’s degrees among all groups, but these increases were smaller than the overall increase in master’s degrees conferred to each minority group.

The surge in health degrees was also evident at the doctoral level, with the largest percentage increases noted among Hispanics and African-Americans. Changes in business doctoral degree conferrals were much more inconsistent. They were up notably for Hispanics and African-Americans, but decreased for Asian Americans.  Proportional representation of doctoral-prepared African-Americans is strikingly varied across disciplines. The proportion of doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans in education and human services (14.4 percent) disciplines is actually higher than African-American representation in the general U.S. population (12.8 percent). The vast majority of these degrees were in education. In fact, education accounted for nearly 40 percent of all doctoral degrees conferred to African-Americans in 2003-2004. At the other end of the spectrum, African-Americans account for only 2 percent of doctoral degree recipients in the STEM disciplines and in agriculture sciences. Overall, African-Americans account for only 5.6 percent of doctoral degree recipients. Although that is notably better than the 3.1 percent representation in 1994, it is still less than half of the African-American representation rate for the general population. Moreover, if you exclude the field of education, African-Americans represent just under 4 percent of doctoral degree recipients.

Although Asian Americans continue to demonstrate relatively high levels of representation in the STEM disciplines, it is interesting to note that the number of STEM-related doctoral degrees awarded to Asian Americans declined over the last 10 years. However, it is important to remember that the Asian American minority group does not include international students who originate from Asian countries. Asian American representation has increased most substantially among first professional degree recipients, especially those in the health professions. Nearly one in five dentistry and medical degrees were awarded to Asian Americans in 2003-2004. 

African-American representation among new lawyers and doctors has improved very modestly over the past 10 years and still remains substantially below the general population rate. Only among divinity degree recipients do African-Americans attain levels commensurate with their general population levels. 

If, as we stated at the beginning of this article, the attainment gap at the highest degree levels reflects a gap in opportunities to influence social structures, these findings are a cause for concern. We can only hope that the tens of thousands of new graduate degree recipients of color are up to the challenge of contributing, beyond their numbers, to the improvement of our common fate.

— Dr. Victor M.H. Borden is associate vice chancellor and associate professor; Pamela C. Brown is an enrollment specialist; and Amy K. Garver is a research assistant at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

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