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Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008

NCES 2008-084
September 2008

Degrees Conferred by Degree-Granting Institutions


The number of American Indians/Alaska Natives earning degrees has more than doubled for each degree level since 1976.

Figure 6.4. Number of degrees awarded to American Indian/Alaska Native students, by level of degree: 1976–77 to 2005–06
Number of degrees awarded to American Indian/Alaska Native students, by level of degree:
1976–77 to 2005–06
1 A degree that signifies both completion of the academic requirements for beginning practice in a given profession and a level of professional skill beyond that normally required for a bachelor's degree. This degree usually is based on a program requiring at least 2 academic years of work prior to entrance and a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete the degree program, including both prior required college work and the professional program itself. First-professional degrees are awarded in the fields of dentistry, medicine, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, veterinary medicine, chiropractic, law, and theological professions.
NOTE: For the years 1984–85 to 2005–06, reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to impute race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Some data may have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, based on Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), "Degrees and Other Formal Awards Conferred," 1976–77 through 1984–85; and 1986–87 through 2005–06 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, "Completions Survey" (IPEDS-C:87–99), and Fall 2000 through Fall 2006.

Between the 1976–77 and 2005–06 school years, the number of degrees awarded by colleges and universities to American Indians/Alaska Natives more than doubled for each degree level. In 1976–77, 2,500 associate's degrees were conferred to American Indians/ Alaska Natives. The number steadily increased to 5,600 by 1995–96. The number of associate's degrees awarded to American Indians/Alaska Natives rose 53 percent between 1995–96 and 2005–06, reaching 8,600 in 2005–06. By comparison, the number of associate's degrees awarded to all students rose by 28 percent during this time (U.S. Department of Education 2008).

This was also the pattern for the number of bachelor's degrees earned by American Indians/Alaska Natives. In 1976–77, around 3,300 bachelor's degrees were awarded to American Indians/Alaska Natives; by 1995–96, the number increased to 7,000, and in 2005–06, the number reached 11,000 bachelor's degrees (appendix table A-6.4). The percentage increase for the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to American Indians/Alaska Natives between 1995-96 and 2005-06 was 57 percent, compared to 28 percent for the total population (U.S. Department of Education 2008).

The number of post-baccalaureate degrees awarded to American Indians/Alaska Natives also increased between 1976–77 and 2005–06: from 970 to 3,500 for master's degrees, from 100 to 230 for doctoral degrees, and from 200 to 710 for first-professional degrees1 (appendix table A-6.4).

Between 1976–77 and 2005–06, American Indians/Alaska Natives earned a slightly increasing share of the degrees at every level. In 1976–77, American Indians/Alaska Natives received 0.6 percent of all the associate's degrees awarded, 0.4 percent of all bachelor's degrees, and 0.3 percent each of all master's, doctoral, and first-professional degrees. These percentages increased to 1.2 percent of associate's degrees, 0.8 percent of bachelor's degrees, 0.7 percent of master's degrees, 0.6 percent of doctoral degrees, and 0.8 percent of first-professional degrees awarded in 2005–06 (appendix table A-6.4).

In the 2005–06 school year, American Indians/Alaska Natives earned a higher percentage of bachelor's degrees than associate's degrees. Of the total number of American Indians/Alaska Natives awarded degrees, 46 percent earned bachelor's degrees and 36 percent earned associate's degrees. Of American Indian/Alaska Native degree earners, 49 percent of males earned bachelor's degrees and 32 percent earned associate's degrees, while 44 percent of females earned bachelor's degrees and 38 percent earned associate's degrees.

Since the 1980–81 school year, the number of associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees awarded each year to American Indian/Alaska Native females has exceeded the number of degrees awarded to American Indian/Alaska Native males. In 2005–06, more degrees were awarded at all levels to American Indian/Alaska Native females (15,300) than American Indian/Alaska Native males (8,700).

View Table View Table 6.4

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1 A degree that signifies both completion of the academic requirements for beginning practice in a given profession and a level of professional skill beyond that normally required for a bachelor's degree. This degree usually is based on a program requiring at least 2 academic years of work prior to entrance and a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete the degree program, including both prior required college work and the professional program itself. First-professional degrees are awarded in the fields of dentistry, medicine, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, veterinary medicine, chiropractic, law, and theological professions.

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