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Minorities Interested in Advanced Degrees Face Key Hurdles

Education

Minorities Interested in Advanced Degrees Face Key Hurdles

by Dawn Royal and Zac Auter
Minorities Interested in Advanced Degrees Face Key Hurdles

Story Highlights

  • Relatively high percentage interested in advanced degrees are nonwhite
  • Cost is the most commonly cited barrier to advanced degrees
  • First-generation students are less likely to rely on family for advice

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With U.S. unemployment at its lowest level in nearly 50 years, the importance of advanced degrees to obtaining good jobs may be growing. Will this leave some groups of young people even further behind in the career gaps? A new study of undergraduate college students attending colleges most likely to send students on for advanced degrees, conducted by Gallup for the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) found that while many black and Hispanic and first-generation college students aspire to advanced degrees, their interests in, reasons for and potential barriers to pursuing advanced degrees often differ from those of their counterparts.

Demographics of Undergraduate Students by Likelihood of Pursuing an Advanced Degree
How likely are you to go to graduate or professional school to obtain a graduate or professional degree (e.g., MBA, other master's, law, medical, dental or other PhD) at any point?
Likely to pursue an advanced degree Undecided Unlikely to pursue an advanced degree Have never thought about an advanced degree
% % % %
Gender
Men 48 57 57 59
Women 52 43 43 41
Race/Ethnicity
Asian 16 14 10 15
Black 8 6 5 6
Hispanic 13 12 9 17
White 64 67 76 62
Total nonwhite 36 33 24 38
Parental education
Less than bachelor's degree 26 30 28 38
Bachelor's degree 33 39 42 40
Advanced degree 41 32 29 22
n= 15,850 2,405 3,196 650
Gallup

Undergraduate students at four-year institutions who say they intend to pursue an advanced degree are more likely than those who do not intend to pursue such a degree to be Asian, black or Hispanic. Specifically, 36% of those aiming to get an advanced degree are Asian, black or Hispanic, compared with just 24% of peers who are not considering an advanced degree.

Undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree are also more likely than their peers to have at least one parent with an advanced degree. Forty-one percent of these students have at least one parent with an advanced degree, compared with 29% of their peers who are unlikely to seek an advanced degree.

Results for this study are based on 22,189 survey responses from a nationwide study of undergraduates at four-year degree-granting institutions likely to have students who go on for an advanced degree. These results are part of a larger study -- Beyond the Bachelor's: Undergraduate Perspectives on Graduate and Professional Degrees -- conducted by Gallup for the AALS and the LSAC to understand the factors both driving and discouraging undergraduates when they are considering a graduate or professional degree.

Demographic Differences Play Role in the Types of Advanced Degrees Considered

The types of advanced degrees college undergraduates are interested in pursuing could help universities better understand how to foster attendance at postsecondary institutions. Master's degrees are the most sought after, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of those interested in advanced degrees considering MA/MS degrees, and about one-quarter (23%) considering an MBA. While one in three (34%) say they are considering a PhD, significantly fewer are considering professional doctorates of JD (15%) or MD (14%). Among students likely to pursue any advanced degree, Hispanic students (18%) are less likely than students overall (23%) to report considering an MBA, while more Asian students are considering an MBA (28%).

Smaller proportions of likely higher-education-bound first-generation college students are considering a JD (12%), MBA (20%) or PhD (32%) compared with students who have at least one parent with an advanced degree (18%, 24% and 37%, respectively). The lack of direct parental experience with higher education could have an impact on the belief of first-generation students that they can ascend to these levels of education.

Advanced Degrees Considered by Undergraduate Demographics, Among Undergraduates Likely to Pursue an Advanced Degree
Which types of graduate or professional degree programs are you considering?
Undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree Parental education Race/Ethnicity
% % Less than bachelor's degree % Bachelor's degree % Advanced degree % Asian % Black % Hispanic % White
Master's degree (MA/MS) 63 65 63 63 62 60 64 64
Master of Business Administration (MBA) 23 20 24 24 28 22 18 23
Other master's degree (e.g., MPA, MPH, MSW, MEd) 10 11 10 10 8 13 10 10
Juris Doctor/Law school (JD) 15 12 13 18 8 16 15 16
Doctor of Medicine/Medical school (MD) 14 15 14 15 17 18 18 12
PhD 34 32 30 37 32 31 37 33
n= 15,829 3,797 5,308 6,656 2,477 822 1,496 10,698
Gallup

Barriers to Advanced Degrees Differ by Key Demographics

The cost of an advanced degree (68%) is the top reason that might prevent undergraduate students likely to pursue an advanced degree from pursuing one; however, cost is an especially significant barrier for black and Hispanic and first-generation college students. Three-quarters of black (77%) and Hispanic (75%) students, versus 58% of Asian and 68% of white students, cite high cost as one of the top factors discouraging them from attending graduate or professional school. Similarly, 76% of first-generation college students compared with 70% of students with at least one parent with a bachelor's and 62% of those with a parent who has an advanced degree cite cost.

Other top barriers to continuing their education mentioned by students likely to pursue an advanced degree include the long time needed to complete the degree (49%) and a poor work-life balance in jobs in the potential field (30%).

Potential Deterrents for Students Considering an Advanced Degree by Demographics, Among Undergraduates Likely to Pursue an Advanced Degree
What are the top three factors that might prevent you from going to graduate or professional school, not including law school? (Three responses allowed)
Undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree Parental education Race/Ethnicity
% % Less than bachelor's degree % Bachelor's degree % Advanced degree % Asian % Black % Hispanic % White
Overall cost for me is too high 68 76 70 62 58 77 75 68
Time to complete is too long 49 49 50 49 45 39 42 53
Poor work-life balance in jobs in the field 30 29 29 31 29 30 31 30
Grad school is too hard/I would not do well academically 23 25 23 23 25 17 25 23
Too few jobs in the field pay enough money 21 22 21 21 23 22 21 20
Not interested in type of work 18 15 16 21 25 18 16 17
Little advancement opportunity in the field/Takes too long to move up 16 13 17 18 20 15 16 16
Someone in the field/ Professor advised me not to go 11 8 13 11 12 7 8 11
Work is not creative enough/too stringent 10 8 10 11 13 10 11 9
n= 15,333 3,720 5,190 6,387 2,408 800 1,461 10,363
Gallup

While these self-reported barriers exist, other barriers, such as access to and awareness of information, as well as available sources of advice about advanced degrees, influence the decision as well.

Although a majority of undergraduate students report that family members (56%) are the most important source for advice about pursuing a graduate or professional degree overall, they play less of a role for black and Hispanic students (48% each) and much less of a role for first-generation college students (38%), whose parents may not have the background and knowledge to help in this area. In contrast, the vast majority (70%) of students who have at least one parent with an advanced degree cite a family member or relative as an important source of information about further schooling.

Most Important Sources for Advice About Pursuing an Advanced Degree by Undergraduate Demographics, Among Undergraduates Likely to Pursue an Advanced Degree
Which of the following are your three most important sources for advice about pursuing a graduate or professional degree? (Three responses allowed)
Undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree Parental education Race/Ethnicity
% % Less than bachelor's degree % Bachelor's degree % Advanced degree % Asian % Black % Hispanic % White
A family member or relative 56 38 52 70 57 48 48 58
Professors or staff at your college 50 50 51 49 46 42 50 53
Advisors or counselors at your college 50 53 50 47 44 54 49 51
People already working in the field/related field 40 41 39 41 37 39 37 42
A friend 16 17 15 15 21 12 14 15
University or college website, catalog or brochure 12 14 12 10 11 14 12 11
Other students at your college 11 12 11 10 13 9 12 10
Admissions staff or recruiters from graduate school(s) 9 10 9 7 10 16 10 8
n= 15,784 3,783 5,304 6,636 2,466 620 1,497 10,677
Gallup

With a lower reliance on family members, black and Hispanic undergraduates and first-generation college students need to rely on other sources of information, but they are also generally less likely than other peer groups to report seeing or receiving information from their school on all types of graduate and professional degrees. The biggest disparities in reports of seeing or receiving information on specific degrees between first-generation college students likely to pursue an advanced degree and those with a parent who has an advanced degree are for JD (27% vs. 40%, respectively), MBA (50% vs. 61%) and PhD (56% vs. 64%) and MD (48% vs. 56%) degrees, though differences exist for all degree types.

Black and Hispanic college students are less likely than their white counterparts to say they see or receive information on PhD, MD and JD degrees, as well as other master's and other professional degrees.

Advanced Degrees That Students Report Seeing or Receiving Information About on Campus by Undergraduate Demographics Major, Among Undergraduates Likely to Pursue an Advanced Degree
Which, if any, of the following types of graduate or professional degree programs have you seen information on, either around campus such as job fairs/graduate school fairs, general notices, or in a counselor's office or through direct mail or email?
Undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree Parental education Race/Ethnicity
% % Less than bachelor's degree % Bachelor's degree % Advanced degree % Asian % Black % Hispanic % White
Master's degree (MA/MS) 80 77 80 81 77 78 79 81
PhD 61 56 60 64 60 55 58 63
Master of Business Administration (MBA) 57 50 58 61 57 58 50 59
Doctor of Medicine/Medical school (MD) 52 48 51 56 48 51 49 55
Juris Doctor/Law school (JD) 34 27 32 40 28 31 31 37
Other master's degree (e.g., MPA, MPH, MSW, MEd) 29 26 28 32 26 27 26 31
Other professional degree (e.g., DDS, PharmD, DVM) 24 21 24 25 21 20 20 26
Gallup

Implications

The number of applicants to graduate and professional schools in the United States is generally strong, although there are times when applications for a specific field or degree are weaker, depending on economic or other factors (for example, law school was an exception earlier this decade, when it experienced a 38% decline in applicants). While there is some push in the greater business community to focus on job and life experiences rather than just a college degree, in the global-knowledge economy, there will be an increased number of jobs requiring graduate and professional degrees in the coming decades. If colleges and universities in the United States are to continue to perform effectively, now is the time to better understand the demand for advanced degrees.

Our study shows that some black and Hispanic students are highly interested in pursuing an advanced degree. This is noteworthy, given that the proportion of advanced degrees conferred on black and Hispanic students has risen over the past decade, and that these groups are still underrepresented in all advanced degrees conferred, particularly Hispanic students.

This study reveals that colleges and universities need to make stronger efforts to level the path to an advanced education for all students, including those whose parents do not have advanced degrees. Only 26% of undergraduates likely to pursue an advanced degree are first-generation college students, and these students may not have strong familial-based knowledge or pathways to support advanced degrees. To encourage more first-generation students to pursue advanced degrees, colleges and universities can make efforts to ensure that information distribution to undergraduates is received more equitably. Colleges and universities might consider expanding career and educational programs designed to increase knowledge of opportunities about graduate and professional school among first-generation and underrepresented minority student populations.

Read the rest of the Beyond the Bachelor's: Undergraduate Perspectives on Graduate and Professional Degrees report.

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/243941/minorities-interested-advanced-degrees-face-key-hurdles.aspx
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