Patel suggests a number of reasons lead to American Indian students not pursuing doctorate degrees including deep family ties and doctoral work requiring being away from home too long, as well as extreme poverty in tribal communities, a lack of faculty role models, and a financially challenged tribal college system.
He points out that according to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates American Indians earned just 102 doctorates in 2012—less than the 149 earned by American Indians 20 years ago.
Progress has been seen at the undergraduate and graduate levels though—Natives earned twice as many bachelor’s degrees in 2012 and three times as many master’s degrees.
“The educational pipeline for American Indian students is pretty well built at the undergraduate level,” Aislinn HeavyRunner-Rioux, a doctoral student in educational leadership at the University of Montana at Missoula, told Patel. Her proposed dissertation will take a look at American Indian persistence in graduate education. “It’s strengthening at the master’s level. It’s still being built at the doctoral level.”
To read more about what some colleges are doing to increase the number of American Indians graduating with P.h.D.’s in the physical sciences, continue reading Patel’s piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education.