America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are the leading baccalaureate institutions for Black students who later earn a research doctorate (usually a Ph.D.). That’s one of the main takeaways from a new report by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics entitled, Baccalaureate Origins of Underrepresented Minority Research Doctorate Recipients.
The report examined the baccalaureate origins of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native research doctorate recipients between 2010–20. It concluded that Ph.D. earners from those groups disproportionately received their bachelor’s degrees from minority-serving institutions, “underscoring the importance of these colleges and universities for enhancing the diversity of the U.S. research enterprise.”
Here are the results for Black doctorate recipients.
Of the top 50 U.S. baccalaureate-origin institutions ranked by the number of Black students who went on to earn their doctorate in the 2010–20 time period, universities classified as R1 doctoral universities (those with “very high research activity”) accounted for 28 of the top 50 institutions, and 37 of these top 50 are public institutions.
HBCUs comprised 8 of the top 10 baccalaureate-origin institutions colleges, and they made up 19 of the top 50 institutions, and 11 of the top 20. Here are the top 20 colleges and universities along with the number of black baccalaureate graduates who eventually earned a research doctorate.
1. Howard University 403
2. Spelman College 383
3. Florida A&M University 340
4. North Carolina Ag. and Technical University 268
5. Hampton University 254
6. Jackson State University 252
7. Southern University and A and M College 220
8. (tie) Morehouse College and University of Maryland, College Park 218
1o. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 211
11. University of Florida 196
12. University of Maryland, Baltimore Co. 193
13. (tie) University of Michigan and Xavier University, Louisiana 185
15. Florida State University 174
16. Morgan State University 161
17. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 149
18. University of Virginia 141
19. Tuskegee University 136
20. University of Southern Mississippi 131
The prominence of HBCUs was also apparent across various disciplines. In the physical and earth sciences, and in education, for example, all five of the top institutions were HBCUs. And HBCUs claimed four of the top five spots in the life sciences, math and computer science, psychology and social sciences, and the humanities and arts. In engineering, two of the top five baccalaureate origin schools were HBCUs, with North Carolina A and T University and Morgan State University claiming the top two spots.
These rankings are based on the absolute number of Black graduates going on to earn their doctorates. Another way to look at the results is to calculate the percentage of Black baccalaureate recipients from a given college who go on to earn their Ph.D.
The report includes what it terms an “institutional-yield ratio (IYR),” defined as the number of 2010–20 Black doctorate recipients who received bachelor's degrees from an institution divided by the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Blacks 9 years earlier (2001–2011) from that same institution. The ratio shows the number of Black doctorates per 100 bachelor's degrees awarded to Black students.
For example, 82 Black doctorate recipients over the 2010–20 period earned bachelor's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a total of 691 Black students earned bachelor's degrees from MIT between 2001 and 2011. Thus, MIT's institutional-yield ratio for the 2010–20 period is 11.9.
Using this methodology to rank institutions, private colleges and universities become much more prominent. When ranked by IYR, private institutions occupy the top 13 places, and the number of HBCUs represented in the top 50 declines from 19 to 7.
Here are the top 20 schools, based on the IYR of Black doctorate recipients.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 11.9
2. Williams College 9.4
3. Oberlin College 9.1
4. Princeton University 8.9
5. Wesleyan University 8.8
6. Rice University 8.7
7. Swarthmore College 8.6
8. Yale University 8.3
9. Harvard University 8.1
10. Spelman College 7.9
11. University of Rochester 7.4
12. Brown University 7.4
13. Dartmouth College 7.3
14. University of Maryland, Baltimore Co. 7.2
15. Wellesley College 7.1
16. Cornell University 7.0
17. Stanford University 6.6
18. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 6.5
19. Duke University 6.4
20. Agnes Scott College 6.2
While these institutions do a good job of preparing their Black graduates for graduate study and the completion of research doctorates, the relatively small number of Black students they enroll and graduate limits their overall contribution to a more diverse research doctorate profile at the national level. HBCUs, on the other hand, have larger absolute numbers of Black graduates resulting in their research doctorate pipeline being more fully stocked.
Increasing the participation of traditionally underrepresented students in the nation’s research enterprise - particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines - has been a goal of multiple entities. Federal agencies like the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health have made the inclusion of minority students and post-docs a priority in many of their research and training grants.
Several states have appropriated funding increases that target the diversification of advanced education at their public institutions. Universities and colleges have allocated their own internal funds to the cause. And a number of private foundations and individual donors have made eight-and nine-figure gifts in support of student diversity efforts at both public and private institutions.
Alongside all that effort, this report highlights an important policy and funding consideration: minority-serving institutions like the HBCUs remain one of the nation’s most important educational pathways to a diversified scientific and scholarly workforce.
I am president emeritus of Missouri State University. After earning my B.A. from Wheaton College (Illinois), I was awarded a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois in 1973. I then joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky, where I progressed through the professorial ranks and served as director of the Clinical Psychology Program, chair of the department of psychology, dean of the graduate school, and provost. In 2005, I was appointed president of Missouri State University. Following retirement from Missouri State in 2011, I became senior policy advisor to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Recently, I have authored two books: Degrees and Pedigrees: The Education of America's Top Executives (2017) and Coming to Grips With Higher Education (2018), both published by Rowman & Littlefield.