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New RTI and Sloan Foundation report explores educational experiences of Black and Hispanic doctorate recipients in STEM

The paper underscores the importance of developing more equitable pathways to earning a Ph.D. in STEM.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new white paper from RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and commissioned by the Sloan Foundation, explores the educational experiences of Black and Hispanic doctorate recipients in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Black students face some particular challenges when earning doctorates in STEM fields,” said Erin Dunlop Velez, a director of education research at RTI who led the analysis alongside RTI senior research education analyst Ruth Heuer and Sloan Foundation program director Lorelle Espinosa. “For example, Black students take considerably longer to complete their doctorate degree, and borrow significantly more, than their Asian, Hispanic and White counterparts.”

The white paper pulls insights from three federal education datasets: the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates and the U.S. Department of Education’s 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The research team explored the characteristics of both the bachelor’s and doctoral degree–granting institutions that future STEM Ph.D. recipients attended, along with their postsecondary pathways and sources of financial support for their education.

The paper’s findings reveal sharp disparities in the experiences of Black STEM Ph.D. recipients, relative to their Asian, Hispanic and White counterparts.

For example, the research team found that Black STEM Ph.D. recipients are considerably more likely to earn their doctorate from a private for-profit institution and that they also take significantly longer to complete their degree and borrow substantially more for their graduate education. Black Ph.D. recipients are also more likely to earn a master’s degree at a separate institution before beginning their doctoral studies and less likely to receive assistantships and fellowships during their doctoral training, according to the findings.

“Understanding the particular challenges Black STEM doctorate recipients face is an important first step to developing programs to better support them,” Velez continued. “This kind of analysis will help institutions learn how to better support Black and Hispanic students and encourage pathways into STEM careers.”

Read the full white paper

Learn more about creating equitable pathways in STEM careers

Learn more about RTI’s education and workforce development research