New Study Documents Degree Completion of Minority Doctoral Students in STEM Fields

cgs_logoThe Council of Graduate Schools has issued a new report on retention and degree completion of minority students in doctoral programs in STEM disciplines. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, collected data on doctoral students at 21 research universities across the United States.

The data shows that retention and degree completion rates have improved slightly over the past 20 years. The latest data reveals that overall degree completion for doctoral students in STEM fields is 54 percent, 10 years after first entering a doctoral program. For African Americans the degree completion rate is only slightly lower at 50 percent.

Part of the project involved student surveys. One finding from the surveys was that minority doctoral students had the most difficulty when they entered the dissertation phase of their doctoral programs. Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said that “one of the striking lessons from this study is that the dissertation phase is a particularly critical time for students. Our country’s STEM workforce will lose a great deal of potential talent if we don’t help underrepresented doctoral students cross the finish line.”

The full report, Doctoral Initiative on Minority Attrition and Completion, may be downloaded by clicking here.


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  1. Doyce Thompson says:

    I am a doctoral student of Public Administration at the University of Texas at Arlington, where I have some very serious concerns with respect to diversity as it relates particularly to “African American” graduates. My concerns are very strong because they are based on the fact that this is my third trip to this University. I first attended UT Arlington a long time ago. I attended on campus, but I did not think much of the grading system as it relates to “African Americans”. My next experience at UT Arlington was during my Master’s degree, this time I was an “online” graduate, where I had a 4.0 GPA for 2 consecutive semesters, until one instructor decided she needed a copy of my driver’s license. Once I submitted a copy of my drivers license, my demographics were clear, thus my GPA dropped to approximately 3.45 immediately, but I finally completed that degree. Today I am a doctoral student of Public Administration, and I am having noting but problems with my GPA, I can’t seem to get a grade above a “C”, until I took a class from a Latino instructor in that class amazingly I got an “A” the first A ever during my doctoral tenure. I am concerned to take my issue to the new department Dean, but I know it won’t do any good. Do you have any suggestions that will help me through this considerable struggle I am having trying to complete my Doctorate? Please advise me via e-mail if you have any suggestions as to what I can do to get better consideration in the grading process of African Americans.

    • Debra D. Lewis says:

      Have you had conferences with your professors? I am a doctoral student at Florida A&M University and we are cautioned strongly against reporting or complaining about a professor because doctoral degrees are not earned; they are awarded. This means they can hold back and you will never graduate.

      Have you reached/sought out to other Black professors/administrators at UT Arlington for advice? If you do decide to report, because of protocol, it is proper to report to the department chair and dean first, then from there to the Provost/Vice President of the University.

    • RT says:

      Here’s and important question. Why are you not able to make a grade above a C? What is going on?

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