- Author: American Institutes for Research
"The Price of a Science PhD: Variations in Student Debt Levels Across Disciplines and Race/Ethnicity" examines debt accrued by those who were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents when they received their doctoral degrees in 2010.
The brief is being released as institutions of higher education, policymakers and others are encouraging minorities to pursue advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Among those who studied a STEM discipline, about 26 percent of whites and Asians owed debt upon graduation, compared with about 49 percent of African Americans and 36 of Hispanics who did. Twenty-five percent of African Americans and 14 percent of Hispanics owed more than $30,000 at graduation, while about 10 percent of whites and Asians graduated with that level of debt.
The authors indicated that financing a Ph.D. in the sciences can result in high levels of debt, particularly for under-represented minorities.
The authors of the brief also looked at the social, behavioral and economic sciences. Compared with STEM, more Ph.D. graduates in those fields carry loans of more than $30,000, with 35 percent of whites and Asians, 44 percent of Hispanics, and 58 percent of African Americans accruing this level of debt.
Those who study these disciplines have a larger burden because they are less likely to receive institutional funding and it takes them more time on average to complete their studies, the authors said. In 2010, the median time to complete a Ph.D. in the social, behavioral and economic sciences is 7.7 years compared with 6.3 years for a student studying in a STEM field.
Disparities still existed along racial and ethnic lines even when students’ time to completion did not exceed the median. Among STEM students who earned their doctorate within the median 6.3 years: 23 percent of white and Asian recipients, 32 percent of Hispanic recipients, and 43 percent of African American recipients completed their studies with debt.
The authors of the brief also looked at debt accumulation along gender lines. Of those who studied the social, behavioral or economic sciences, females were more likely than their male peers to owe debt.
Source: Published originally on American Institutes for Research (AIR) as BlackEngineer.com as African American and Hispanic Ph.D. Science Graduates Are More Likely to Accrue Debt than Their White and Asian Peers, Study Finds, May 2013.