Doctoral Program Resources for Minority Students

The goal of diversity in doctoral education has eluded the US for many decades. Nationally, diversity policies have fostered gradual efforts by professional groups, philanthropists, and educational institutions to include greater numbers of women and minority group students. While this article reviews the difficulties and barriers facing women and minority doctoral candidates, one must add that on balance the Latino, Black, and other minority rates of participation are at or near all-time highs. There are problems, barriers, and obstacles, and there are also meaningful opportunities.

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Barriers and Obstacles

A brief survey of current research on the problem of under-representation of minorities in doctoral level educational attainment reveals signs of progress and points to the remaining difficulties. The barriers are both based in the institutional approaches and in effects of the larger societal social systems.

Minority students have a higher attrition rate than White students. They have much higher rates of greatly extended time for completion and a lower rate of completing on time. The lack of funds stands out as a primary cause. Another frequently cited cause is the sense of isolation and lack of support reported by many women and minority students.

Race Minorities and Women

There are some notable contrasts between the research findings for racial minorities and women. Women experience barriers based on gender but may find higher levels of support than minority students. The effects of disparate treatment based on gender may be as harmful to the individual as treatment based on race or national origin. There may be fewer cultural issues such as identity.

Women and Women of Color

The research suggests that both women and women of color experience disparate treatment relative to white males. The women of color have additional burdens both as students and as faculty. For example, women of color might respond to unpaid requirements to assist both female and race-based recruitment and student support.

In Their Own Words

Some of the most compelling and vivid examples of efforts to overcome impediments to completing doctoral studies come from the students. Speaking as scholars, Latino persons, and aspiring people of various ages, these testimonial papers add a human dimension to a sometimes vague and abstract problem of under-representation. The critical roles of encouragement, positive mentoring, and supportive learning environments take on the force of life when related by students.

Socialization, Mentors, and the Educational Environment

Many women and minority group students reported discomfort, disappointment, and some high levels of frustration with a perceived pressure to conform to normative models. This pressure seems unwanted and manifests in the vital relationship of mentor and student as well as in the broader context of the student within an educational institution.

One must note as an observation that many schools of thought suggest the greatest value of minority faculty, senior executives, and CEOs are their value as role models that relate to the female or minority communities. Compliance with societal norms is a subjective standard at best, and there is a greater potential to stifle educational attainment among minority doctoral candidates than to promote it.

Minority Doctoral Grants, Scholarships, Financial Assistance

Financial hardship contributed to higher attrition among women of color and minority students more broadly. There are far more students than scholarships, and many students will have to borrow funds. To the extent that students can get grants, stipends, and scholarships, they can benefit from the use of funds that do not add future debt.

There are several types of aid and sources of financial aid. Some aid is based on merit and need. The merit-based awards use high academic achievement as well as demonstrated financial need. Other types of assistance use need as the primary test. Many of the programs aimed at women (the AAUW) and minority candidates emphasize the potential contributions that the student may make as a teaching professional.

To the extent that applicants plan to engage in either full or part-time or periodic stints of college-level instruction then that information may work to the applicant’s advantage. For example, scholarship funds from the CPA association, Carnegie Mellon, and the NAEd Dissertation Fellowship.

International students are often from cultures that meet the requirements for diverse applicants in the US. Some notable scholarships focus on recent immigrants and children of immigrants. For example, the George Soros family foundations scholarships and the Fulbright Foundation support students of color from other nations.

Opening Doctoral Education to Women and Minorities

The research, articles, and reflexive studies suggest many areas for improvement. The three below-described points are but some of the beneficial areas for consideration for opening doors to doctoral education to women and minorities.

(1) Improving mentoring.

Mentoring is a critical phase of the doctoral process, and while the research does not list it as a primary cause of attrition, the relationship is a frequent point of frustration. Women and women of color seem particularly expressive of disappointment in the level of support. Mentoring is a situation in which the teaching profession touches the candidate directly and in a formative stage. Mentoring holds great promise as a source of support even as now it is a source of frequent disappointment.

(2) Focusing on Identity.

Ethnic and gender identity seems to arise in an odd vacuum; while all groups share this trait, the minority and women candidates seem to bear its difficulty. Identity should be an essential asset for EdDs and Ph.Ds. and particularly those that take up teaching. In every field of education, the personality, drive, and ambitions of a teacher can be a source of strength and inspiration. Identity should be encouraged whether or not it easily understood by mentors and educational structures.

(3) Restructuring the employment side.

Many educational institutions, public bodies, and private and firms develop and apply diversity principles to EdD and Ph.D. position-searches. The policy seems to sit on a shelf until the vacancies occur, and then the institution springs into action to reach out. Some studies suggest that institutions can take better advantage of specialized search services and that they can enhance their policies by inclusive recruitment infrastructure. The pipeline, sources, and referrals should be a constant process and not a sporadic process in response to vacancies.


Academic/Research Articles

  • Minorities in Higher Education, Justiz, Manuel J., Ed.; And Others - A survey of scholarly articles covering significant trends and issues affecting minority participation in doctoral programs in the US. Issues affecting Native, Black, Asian, and Latino Ph.D. candidates including diversity and outreach, demographics, financial aid, and minority faculty.
  • Identity Development and Mentoring in Doctoral Education - Identity formation is a key to successful mentoring in doctoral education. This paper examines cultural marginalization and the mentoring relationship to suggest improvements for mentors to effect positive change in minority Ph.D. candidate outcomes.
  • Overview of Research on Underrepresented Populations in Graduate Schools - An overview of research on underrepresented populations considers low rates of participation, high rates of attrition, and the overall need for systemic change improve minority and female participation in STEM fields. The research suggests ways to address the demographics of graduate education to reverse trends of declining rates of diversity and inclusion.

Online Articles

  • Getting Minority Ph.D. Students to the Finish Line - To reduce attrition among minority Ph.D. candidates, some educators propose mentoring. The goal of diversifying the national professorate depends on improving minority graduate retention. Formal mentoring can increase successful minority graduate study, particularly in the STEM disciplines.
  • Latinos with Doctorates on the Rise - The number of Latino scholars completing Ph.D. studies has risen steadily over the past 20 years. While still a distinct minority, the number suggest more Latinos can take advantage of educational opportunities at the graduate level.
  • The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education - The University of Massachusetts initiated a New Fellows Program to increase diversity among its graduate school populations. The Spaulding -Smith STEM fellowships. The awards will benefit top science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) applicants seeking admission to the UMass doctoral programs.
  • The Shifting Landscape of Doctoral Education - Over the past decade, the rate of diverse participation in graduate study increased. The changes reflect shifts in internationalization and democratization of higher education opportunity. The shift reflects a better level of responsiveness to societal needs.

Scholarships and Fellowships

  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund - Hispanic scholarship fund awards $500 to $5,000 based on need. Eligible applicants are high school and college students of Hispanic heritage that meet academic achievement levels for GPA, enrolled in accredited institutions, and eligible resident of US.
  • Fulbright Scholar Program - The international scholarship program opens opportunities for 155 countries around the globe. The program offers opportunities for diverse foreign students to study in the US and for diverse US students to travel and study abroad. The Scholarships help increase global leadership for international cooperation.
  • NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowshipg - This innovative program awards 35 fellowships of $27,500 to support dissertations that can bring fresh perspectives to formal or informal education anywhere in the world. The goal is to inspire a wide range of scholars and disciplines to undertake educational improvement research.
  • Gates Millennium Foundation - The Gates Scholarship will assist 300 applicants from at least one of the following ethnicities: African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian & Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American. The funds can fill the gap between Pell grants and all other aid to cover the entire costs of education.
  • AICPA Fellowship - The program ensures some classroom visible, diverse Ph.D. CPAs in the nation’s classrooms. The program awards $12,000 to support Minority CPAs that serve as role models for minority students in classroom and other settings that demonstrate a potential to become accounting educators.
  • AERA Minority Dissertation Fellowship in Education Research - The program awarded funds to students to support research and writing of a supervised doctoral thesis at an accredited school or college. The program supports representatives of historically underrepresented groups including African Americans, American Indians, Asians, Hispanics, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders.
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowships - The Ford Foundation fellowship supports applicants that have legal US status including expressly those with protection under the DACA program. The program awards funds to Ph.D. candidates at accredited schools excluding for-profit institutions.
  • American Indian Graduate Center Fellowships - This program for American Indian or Alaska Native tribal members provides up to $20,000 for undergrad and $30,000 for graduate study in STEM fields. The program supports associate degrees through Ph.D. level studies.
  • CHCI Graduate Fellowship Program - The Congressiona Hispanic Caucus Institute offers a graduate fellowship for pre-doctoral students looking to learn about and make an impact in public policy. Recipients will receive a gross stipend of $27,500 for a 9-month fellowship in Washington, D.C.
  • American Association of University Women - The AAUW among the world’s most significant sources of funding for graduate women. In the 2018-19 academic year, the organization will award $3.9 million to 250 outstanding women and nonprofits. The funds support research to

Government Agencies

  • Educational Attainment - The census snapshots of educational attainment in the US reveals the trends in educational attainment among minority groups. The snapshots reveal some supporting information such as the number of native-born PhDs is lower than the number of foreign-born PhDs.
  • Who Earns a Doctorate - The report shows increases in PhDs by underrepresented minorities. Over the past ten years, these U.S. citizens or permanent residents achieved a 31% increase in the number of Black or African American doctorates and a 71% increase in the number of Hispanic or Latino PhDs.
  • Certificates and Degrees Conferred by Race/ Ethnicity - The NCES data shows the trend in African American attainment of Ph.D. degrees over the past decade plus a year to date measure. The increase in Black and Hispanic attainment has been dramatic and consistent.
  • 5 Facts About Latinos and Education - Latino education trends present an overall positive picture of higher high school graduation rates and lower dropout rates. Education ranks high in Latino public sentiment, and college enrollments are up. The college pattern is mixed with low rates of four-year enrollment, high enrollment in community colleges, low usage of student debt, and low bachelor’s graduation rates. Costs are a barrier.

Minorities and Education

  • The Shifting Landscape of Doctoral Education - This article cites statistics showing greater participation in graduate education by minorities and women. The trend in democratizing the graduate student population coincides with the need to offer a diverse college faculty to meet the needs of students.
  • Leadership in Your Midst: Tapping the Hidden Strengths of Minority Executives - This article explores the hidden potential of existing ranks of women minority executives as role models and cultural assets for recruitment. Diversity and inclusion are practical and inspirational assets. The ranks of minority and women executives are proof of the ideals of valuing diversity and applying inclusion policies.

Minority Faculty

  • The Effects of Ph.D. Supply on Minority Faculty Representation - Building on previous work, this article performs data analysis using current information to demonstrate the limits of reducing underrepresentation by increasing the supply of PhDs across all race groups. The information supports a critical examination of outreach and inclusion for minority faculty participation.
  • Minority Trainees Are Up, But Not Minority Faculty - This article points to the experience in the biomedical education field in which the increased number of trainees does not translate into increased minority faculty. The study lists losses during undergraduate education and in the transition from postdoctoral fellowship to tenure-track faculty.
  • Barriers to the Progress of Women and Minority Faculty - The authors argue that under-representation in the supply of Ph.D.’s is only one of several factors that depress minority Ph.D. participation in active college and university faculty. It is the broader and systemic factors that affect minority representation at every level of education.

Hispanic/Latino

  • The Condition of Latinos in Education - This publication offers research, views, and commentary on Latino scholars in the field of education. Sponsored by the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, the publication has a wide range of materials for reference and study on Latino participation in the US education system.
  • New Program Seeks to Guide More Latinos to Ph.D.s - This article describes an inclusion effort funded by the Carnegie Mellon Foundation through the U of Pennsylvania Center for Minority Serving Institutions. The program provides $5 million to support 90 students at Hispanic serving institutions toward doctoral success.
  • Graduate Education Programs Lead in Attracting Latinos - The article describes the low rate of Latinos with advanced degrees. Against the backdrop of low master’s levels, the field of education has the highest portion of Latino graduates. Many cite the push by the Obama Administration to promote persons of color in the field of education.
  • Paving the Way for More Latinos in Academia - The article discusses programs that promote Latino intellectual and academic achievement. HSI Pathways to the Professoriate is among the new programs housed at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions- University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, and Northwestern University.
  • Latinos in Higher Education - This fact sheet summarizes information on Latino scholars at stages of the doctoral supply pipeline. The points cover associate studies at community colleges, undergrad programs, and graduate levels. Data points include state breakdowns for enrollments and attainments.
  • Missing Minority Ph.D.s - The Council on Graduate Schools assesses high attrition among Black Ph.D. candidates in STEM. The loss reduces effort to increase minority participation in college-level instruction. Only 44 percent of black and Latino Ph.D. students in STEM finished a degree within seven years.
  • Data on Minorities and PhDs - The AIP data displays contrasts in white versus minority group PhDs in Physics. The evidence is both current and historical. Through the period 2114 through 2016 of 966 US PhDs, 843 were white, and 123 were all other US group members including Hispanics, Blacks, and Asian Americans.

Diversity in the Workplace

  • Data on Minorities and PhDs - The article describes the small and declining number of Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. The larger picture is a trend that peaked in the decade of the 2000s for Black and other minority CEOs at major companies.
  • What It Takes: Minorities in the Executive Suite - This study approaches removing barriers to top -level Corporate diversity and the impact that C-suite diversity can have on corporate culture. The study notes the steep path to the top of major corporations for Black and Hispanic men and women.