degrees from a wide range of institutions.1 In 2006, one-third of these new doctorates had earned their bachelor’s from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and two-thirds from non-HBCUs. Similarly, about 30 percent of the undergraduate institutions awarding bachelor’s degrees to these individuals were HBCUs. Another 25 percent were non-HBCU research universities, and the rest of the institutions were from a range of non-HBCUs, including doctorate, master’s, and liberal arts colleges, as well as a group of foreign institutions.

The proportion of African American S&E doctorates who had received their bachelor’s degrees from HBCUs has fluctuated in recent decades, as NSF relates:

In the latter 1970s, over 40 percent of black S&E doctorate recipients received their baccalaureate degrees from HBCUs. This percentage fell to 25 percent in the first part of the 1990s before increasing to about 33 percent in 2006. During the same period (1977-2006), the share of blacks receiving bachelor’s degrees from HBCUs fell from 36 percent to 21 percent.”2

But the role of HBCUs is strong in terms of overall numbers per institution. While they award a minority of the bachelor’s degrees to African American S&E doctorates, the institutions awarding the largest number of bachelor’s to this group are HBCUs. NSF reports that for African American S&E doctorate recipients in the period 1997-2006, the top 8 baccalaureateorigin institutions were HBCUs, and overall, 20 of the top 50 baccalaureate institutions were. The top 5 baccalaureate institutions were Howard University, Spelman College, Hampton University, Florida A&M University, and Morehouse College.

When normalized for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded nine years earlier to African American undergraduates, however, another important picture emerges. In this case, only 5 of the top 50 baccalaureate institutions for 1997-2006 African American S&E doctorates, including the social sciences, are HBCUs, with just Spelman in the top 25. The top five institutions were Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, Princeton University, Harvard University, and Amherst College. This shows the role that elite predominantly white institutions (PWIs) can play. The “normalization” masks that these institutions have actually produced just small numbers that are a relatively high percentage relative to a small base and primarily in the social sciences (with the exception of MIT), but they


Joan Burrelli and Alan Rapoport, “Role of HBCUs as Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of Black S&E Doctorate Recipients,” InfoBrief (NSF 08-319), National Science Foundation, Science Resources Statistics, August 2008.



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