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The Top 100 Interpreting the Data

The Top 100 Interpreting the Data

By Victor M.H. Borden and Pamela C. Brown

Substantial growth continues in both the number and percentage of students of color obtaining master’s, doctoral and first professional degrees, but there is still notable under-representation among African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians at the doctoral and first professional ranks. The overall numbers also mask important representational differences across disciplines among various racial/ethnic groups. Asian Americans continue to obtain disproportionally high numbers of advanced degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the health professions. African-Americans, in turn, have very low representation in these areas but very high representation in education and human service fields like public administration and criminal justice. Hispanics — the fastest-growing ethnic group in the overall population — have made notable strides in representation among master’s and doctoral degree recipients but not as much among first professional degree recipients, which are dominated by law and the clinical health professions. Over a 10-year period, minority gains have outpaced White increases, but as advanced degree attainment becomes more closely linked to positions of influence, the stakes become greater.

This edition of the Top 100 analysis considers graduate degrees awarded during the 2004-2005 academic year based on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Set (IPEDS). As in past years, this analysis is based on “preliminary” data but is complete and accurate for those colleges and universities included in the analysis. We only consider in this analysis institutions eligible for Title IV funding (i.e., accredited by a federally recognized agency), located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and that award post-baccalaureate degrees.

The IPEDS data collection is now a Web-based survey that institutions use to submit their degree counts to NCES. Colleges and universities are required to categorize their degree programs according to the national Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code system. Based on the data reported through CIP, we are able to compare institutions using a common set of established categories. While the mapping system used may not be perfect, the comparisons across institutions are fairly reliable.

We base this analysis on racial/ethnic status, self-reported by students during their college career. This information is reported through a set of standard federal categories: non-resident alien (foreign); Black, non-Hispanic; American or Alaskan Native (American Indian); Asian or Pacific Islander (Asian American); Hispanic; White, non-Hispanic; and race/ethnicity unknown. These minority categories include only U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students choose from among these categories based on the convention used by their institution. The institution then determines how to “map” these categories to the standard federal categories, as only one racial/ethnic identification can be chosen per student. While the federal government uses a “multi-identification” practice for the population census, these practices have yet to be extended to IPEDS and other federal reporting systems.

Presented are the Top 100 lists for each postgraduate degree level (master’s, first professional and doctoral) and each racial/ethnic group. The same structure used in the bachelor’s analysis is used for the graduate analysis. The lists display the total number of degrees granted last year to the targeted group, followed by the number conferred to men, women and overall for the most recent year available (2004-2005). Two percentage columns are provided, with the first indicating the representation of that specific racial/ethnic group relative to all students at that institution who received that type of degree. The second column indicates the percentage change in degree conferrals for that group from the prior year.

Listed next are the Top 50 institutions that confer degrees to minorities in a select set of disciplines. The disciplines reflect aggregate groupings according to the CIP code system. 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 at the NCES’s Web site, ciplist.asp.

Trends in Graduate Degree
Awards to Students of Color
Over the past 10 years, the total number of graduate level degrees awarded to students of color has nearly doubled, increasing from about 73,000 to just under 138,000. This represents an average annual growth rate of 6.6 percent. During this same time period, graduate degrees conferred to non-minority students increased at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent. At the start of the 10-year period (1994-1995), minorities represented 15 percent of graduate degree recipients. For 2004-2005, minority representation increased to 21 percent. Among the traditionally under-represented minority groups (African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians), total graduate degrees awarded doubled from roughly 48,000 to 96,000, the average annual growth rate was 7.2 percent and representation climbed from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Further details on this pattern of growth are illustrated in Display 1-3, which shows both the numerical and proportional increases by degree level, and for each racial/ethnic group. The display table includes the number and percent of degrees conferred for each degree type among the minority racial/ethnic groups identified in the IPEDS Completions survey, as well as for the two non-minority groups (White and foreign) combined. The display also shows the number and percentage of degree recipients for whom racial/ethnic identity is unknown. The unknown cases are excluded from the determination of the percent of total shown for each racial/ethnic group in each year.

The pie charts in Display 1-3 illustrate the increases in percentages of minority graduate degree recipients from 1994-1995 to 2004-2005. The fastest growth rate overall and among minority students occurred at the master’s level, where the growth rate was highest among Hispanics, followed by African-Americans. Growth rates for doctoral and first professional degrees were generally lower but followed the same pattern, with one notable exception. Among Asian Americans, doctoral degree conferrals were relatively flat over the 10-year period but first professional degree conferrals increased at the fastest rate among students of known race/ethnicity.

The highest rate of increase in master’s and first professional degree conferrals were to students of unknown race/ethnicity. This increase can be attributed, in part, to the heightened sensitivity students express in reporting their racial/ethnic background within a reporting system that does not accommodate the increasingly prevalent multiracial characteristics of the student population. Unfortunately, NCES, like many other governmental agencies, cannot request multiracial reporting until the federal Office of Management and Budget releases official implementation guidelines for the new reporting standards it released in 1997.

In prior editions of the Top 100 graduate degree analysis, we noted marked differences in the distribution of degrees by disciplinary areas across the racial/ethnic spectrum. Display A, B and C highlight some of these continuing differences. 

For under-represented minorities, education and human services account for more than two-fifths of the master’s degrees and close to that proportion of the doctoral degrees. Asian Americans earn low proportions of degrees in this general disciplinary area, but much higher proportions in the STEM disciplines, especially at the doctoral level.

African-Americans earn a relatively low proportion of degrees in the traditional arts and sciences disciplines, most of which in this analysis are represented in two separate categories: humanities and fine arts and the STEM fields. The social and behavioral sciences disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, political science and psychology, are included within the “All Other” category, along with agriculture and a varied range of other, less popular fields.

For all students, business and education account for the majority of master’s  degrees, although this represents just a slim majority (51 percent) among Asian Americans, who also receive a notable proportion (23 percent) of master’s degrees in STEM fields. At the doctoral level, Asian Americans attain close to half of their degrees in STEM fields, while both African-Americans and American Indians obtain proportionally few degrees in these disciplines. Nearly half of all doctoral degrees conferred to African-Americans were in education. Hispanics have the most balanced distribution of doctoral degrees across disciplinary areas, with a notable under-representation only in the health fields.

First professional degrees are awarded in only three general disciplinary areas: divinity, health and law. Overall, law degrees represent about half of all first professional degrees and a variety of health degrees — including those in clinical medicine, osteopathic medicine, veterinary medicine, optometry and pharmacy — comprise most of the remaining half. Fewer than 10 percent of all first professional degrees are awarded in divinity. African-Americans are over-represented among divinity degree recipients and under-represented among health degree recipients. American Indians and Hispanics earn similar proportions of first professional degrees across the three general fields, with law representing a higher than average proportion. Two-thirds of first professional degrees awarded to Asian Americans are in health fields, with relatively low proportions in law or divinity.

Differences in disciplinary involvements and preferences across racial/ethnic groups have deep and complex cultural and societal roots. There are several notable efforts to improve participation, particularly in the STEM fields, among under-represented minority groups. As of 2004-2005, it appears that these efforts have not yet met with significant success, particularly among African-Americans. In 1994-1995, 210 doctoral degrees were awarded to African-Americans in STEM fields, representing 13 percent of all doctoral degrees conferred to African-Americans. Although the number increased to 340 by 2004-2005, this represents only 12 percent of doctoral degrees conferred to African-Americans. Put another way, the percentage of STEM doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans has increased from a dismal 1.3 percent in 1994-1995 to a nearly as dismal 1.9 percent a decade later. More generally, under-represented minorities comprised 23.8 percent of the general population in 1994-1995 and received 2.7 percent of the STEM doctoral degrees, a difference in representation of 20 percentage points. By 2004-2005 these three ethnic/racial groups represented 29.3 percent of the general population and received 4.3 percent of the doctoral degrees conferred in STEM fields, for a difference of 25 percentage points. There is still much work to do!

Dr. Victor M. H. Borden is associate vice president and associate professor at Indiana University. Pamela C. Brown is associate director of enrollment services at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

What Are We Studying?
Master’s Degrees by Disciplinary Area and Racial/Ethnic Groups
(Display A)

African-American 29%
American Indian 23%
Asian American 34%
Hispanic 22%
White and Foreign 23%

Education and Human Services
African-American 43%
American Indian 42%
Asian American 17%
Hispanic 45%
White and Foreign 35%

Health Professions
African-American 8%
American Indian 9%
Asian American 11%
Hispanic 8%
White and Foreign 8%

Humanities & Fine Arts
African-American 3%
American Indian 7%
Asian American 5%
Hispanic 6%
White and Foreign 7%

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
African-American 5%
American Indian 7%
Asian American 23%
Hispanic 7%
White and Foreign 14%

All Other
African-American 11%
American Indian 12%
Asian American 10%
Hispanic 12%
White and Foreign 13%

What Are We Studying?
Doctoral Degrees by Disciplinary Area and Racial/Ethnic Groups
(Display B)

African-American 4%
American Indian 2%
Asian American 3%
Hispanic 3%
White and Foreign 3%

Education and Human Services
African-American 43%
American Indian 32%
Asian American 9%
Hispanic 24%
White and Foreign 15%

Health Professions
African-American 8%
American Indian 11%
Asian American 16%
Hispanic 9%
White and Foreign 11%

Humanities & Fine Arts
African-American 7%
American Indian 14%
Asian American 9%
Hispanic 13%
White and Foreign 10%

Science, Technology Engineering and Math
African-American 12%
American Indian 15%
Asian American 45%
Hispanic 23%
White and Foreign 37%

All Other
African-American 25%
American Indian 27%
Asian American 19%
Hispanic 28%
White and Foreign 24%

What Are We Studying?
First Professional Degrees by Disciplinary Area and Racial/Ethnic Groups
(Display C)

African-American 14%
American Indian 3%
Asian American 2% 
Hispanic 4%
White and Foreign 7%

African-American 38% 
American Indian 42% 
Asian American 67% 
Hispanic 40% 
White and Foreign 42% 

African-American 48% 
American Indian 56% 
Asian American 31% 
Hispanic 57% 
White and Foreign 51% 

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