Humanities Indicators
Facebook Twitter YouTube
Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
Paying for Doctoral Study in the Humanities
(Updated November 2016)

Several forms of funding for the humanities enterprise in the United States are largely unacknowledged. These include teaching and research assistantships, employer support, and student self-funding and borrowing, which together with grants provided by universities and other philanthropic organizations, help subsidize advanced study in the field.

Findings and Trends

  • A plurality of humanities Ph.D.’s graduating in 2014 (41%) reported that teaching assistantships had been the primary source of financial support for their studies, as compared to 20% who had relied on their own resources—which was just slightly higher than the previous year’s record low (Indicator II-16a). Another 35% of humanities Ph.D.’s had relied primarily on grants and fellowships to subsidize their graduate education.
  • Among doctorate recipients in the humanities, the shares of students who had relied on particular sources of support for their doctoral studies changed substantially from those finishing in 1998 to those finishing in 2014. In 1998, 37% had depended on personal resources for their graduate studies, a share four percentage points larger than that relying on teaching assistantships. Since peaking at 39% in 1999, the percentage of new Ph.D.’s who had relied primarily on their own resources fell almost every year through 2014. Much of the decline up to 2008 corresponded to an increase in the share of graduates who had relied on grants and fellowships. From 2008 to 2014, however, the share who had depended on grants and fellowships fell somewhat, while the share who had relied on teaching assistantships increased six percentage points.
  • The humanities are more dependent on teaching assistantships as a source of support for doctoral study than any other field (Indicator II-16b). When all academic fields are considered together, 21% of doctoral degree recipients in 2014 had relied primarily on this funding source, compared to almost 41% in the humanities. The share of doctorate recipients reporting teaching assistantships as a primary source of support was at least 44% larger in the humanities than in every other major field.
  • Humanities doctorate recipients were more likely to draw on their own resources than were doctorate recipients in engineering and the life and physical sciences, though the proportion of humanities doctorate recipients who cited personal income or savings as their primary source of support was less than half the share of recipients in education who did so.
II-16a: Primary Source of Financial Support for Humanities Doctorate Recipients, 1998–2014*

* Percentages do not total to 100% for any year because this indicator does not track funding from foreign governments and other sources (these funds represent a very small share of humanities students’ financial support).

Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators (humanitiesindicators.org). For years 1998–2006, estimates obtained from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago: Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report (Chicago: NORC, 1999–2007). For 2007–2008: National Science Foundation, Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, Division of Science Resources Statistics Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report 2007–08, NSF 10-309 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2009), tables 22 and S-42. For 2009: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2009, NSF 11-306 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2010), table 32. For 2010: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2010, NSF 12-305 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2011), table 35. For 2011: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011, NSF 13-301 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2012), table 35. For 2012: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2012, NSF 14-305 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2013), table 35. For 2013: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013, NSF 15-304 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2014), table 35. For 2014: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2014, NSF 16-300 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2015), table 35.

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/suppII-16a.xls../cmsData/ppt/indII-16a.ppt../cmsData/pdf/indII-16a.pdf
II-16b: Primary Source of Financial Support for Doctorate Recipients in Selected Academic Fields, 2014
Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators (humanitiesindicators.org). Debt estimates obtained from National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2014, NSF 16-300 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2015), table 35.
About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/suppII-16b.xls../cmsData/ppt/indII-16b_1.ppt../cmsData/pdf/indII-16b_1.pdf