Chapter 3
Graduate Enrollment

Overview ^

Total graduate enrollment in degree-granting institutions in all disciplines increased 3.9 percent from 1992 to 1996 (NCES 1999). In contrast, graduate enrollment in science and engineering fell 2 percent from 1996 to 1997—the fourth consecutive drop since 1993. This drop in graduate enrollment is attributable to the decline in the number of white graduate students (both men and women). Although the numbers of black, Hispanic, and American Indian graduate students (both men and women) are on the rise, their increase does not counter the decline caused by dwindling numbers of white graduate students.

Transition to graduate school ^

Women ^

As of the mid-1990s, women and men pursued graduate study after the science and engineering bachelorís degree in roughly equal proportions. Among science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients in academic year 1995, 22 percent of women and 20 percent of men were enrolled full time in 1997. (See text table 3-1.)

Minorities[1] ^

Asian science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients are more likely to continue on to graduate school than their counterparts from all other racial/ethnic groups, including whites. Other racial/ethnic groups have comparable levels of participation in graduate study following the bachelorís degree. Among science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients in academic year 1995, 29†percent of Asians were enrolled full time in graduate school by April 1997, compared to between 20 and 21†percent of whites, blacks, Hispanics and American Indians. (See text table 3-1.)

Persons with disabilities ^

Persons with disabilities, who constituted 2.6 percent of the academic year 1995 bachelorís science and engineering graduates, were more likely than those without disabilities to enroll part time in graduate school. Among 1995 science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients, 16†percent of those with disabilities were part-time students in 1997 compared with 8 percent of those without disabilities. (See text table 3-1.) 1995 science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients with disabilities were also less likely to be employed—22 percent were not employed in 1997 compared to 14 percent of those without disabilities.

Enrollment trends ^

Women ^

In 1997, 55 percent of the graduate students in all fields were women (Syverson and Bagley 1999) as were 40†percent of the graduate students in science and engineering fields. The number of women enrolled in science and engineering graduate programs increased from 94,396 in 1980 to 162,029 in 1997. (See figure 3-1.) Gains were largest in the 1980s and have been more modest in recent years. From 1980 to 1997, the number of women graduate students increased in all science and engineering fields. The number of men enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs peaked in 1992 and has declined each year since.

Over the past two decades, the percentage of graduate students who are women has increased both in science and engineering as a whole and in each major science and engineering field. (See figure 3-2.) In 1980, 29 percent of science and engineering graduate students were female; this proportion had risen to 40 percent in 1997.

In some fields—engineering, computer science, and agricultural sciences—the number of female graduate students generally continues to increase. Within the last few years, however, enrollment of both women and men has dropped in several fields. In the physical sciences, for example, enrollment of both sexes has been declining since the early 1990s. Because the rate of decline has been larger for men, the percentage of physical science graduate students who are women has increased. (See appendix tables 3-1, 3-2. and 3-3.) For example, in 1993, 9,202 women were enrolled in graduate physical sciences programs representing 26 percent of total graduate physical sciences enrollment. In 1997, 8,851 women were enrolled in graduate physical sciences programs, but they were 28†percent of all graduate physical sciences enrollment. Similar declines in numbers, but increases in percentages, occurred in mathematics and—more recently—in the biological sciences.

The percentage of first-year science and engineering graduate students who are women is on the rise. In 1980, 30 percent of full-time first-year science and engineering graduate students were female, compared to 41 percent in 1997. (See appendix table 3-4.) Again, most of this increase can be attributed to a decline in the number of men among first-year students since 1992. Male full-time first-year science and engineering graduate student enrollment dropped 17 percent between 1992 and 1997 (from 52,696 to 43,550), while the number of women declined only 2 percent—from 30,438 to 29,963—over the same period.

Minorities (U.S. citizens and permanent residents) ^

Across all disciplines, the numbers of Asian, black, and Hispanic graduate students increased between 1996 and 1997, rising by 1 percent, 4 percent, and 3 percent, respectively. The number of American Indian graduate students held steady from 1996 to 1997 (Syverson and Bagley 1999).

In science and engineering, the numbers of black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian graduate students have increased since 1982 (the first year for which data by race/ethnicity are available). (See figure 3-3.) Black science and engineering graduate students rose in number from 10,388 in 1982 to 19,363 in 1997, Hispanics from 7,724 in 1982 to 14,988 in 1997, American Indians increased from 909 in 1982 to 1,599 in 1997, and Asians from 8,170 in 1982 to 26,078 in 1997. (See appendix table†3-5.) The number of white science and engineering graduate students also increased over that time period—from 215,264 in 1982 to 227,936 in 1997. Although white graduate enrollment in science and engineering increased in absolute terms between 1982 and 1997, it dropped 11†percent over the last 4 years from a peak of 256,859 in 1993.

From 1982 to 1997, the percentage of graduate students who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian increased in science and engineering as a whole as well as in each major science and engineering field. The proportion of black science and engineering graduate students increased from 4 percent in 1982 to 6 percent in 1997, Hispanics from 3 to 5 percent, American Indians from 0.3 to 0.5 percent, and Asians from 3 to 8 percent. Concurrently, the proportion of graduate students who are white declined from 79 percent in 1982 to 74 percent in 1997. Improved reporting of race/ethnicity, evidenced by the decline in the number of students of "unknown race/ethnicity," could account for some of the reported increase in nonwhite students. Specifically, the percentage of graduate students of unknown race/ethnicity declined from 12†percent in 1982 to 6 percent in 1997. (See appendix table 3-5.)

Data on the number of science and engineering graduate students by sex and race/ethnicity jointly are available only as far back as 1994. For the 4 years for which data are available, the numbers of black, Hispanic, and American Indian men and women enrolled as graduate science and engineering students increased. (See appendix table 3-8.) The number of Asian women also increased, while the numbers of white men, white women, and Asian men dropped. Women in each racial/ethnic group account for higher percentages of psychology graduate students and lower percentages of mathematics, computer science, and engineering graduate students than do men in their respective racial/ethnic group. (See text table 3-2.)

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Persons with disabilities ^

Data are not available on trends in graduate enrollment for students with disabilities. The reason for this is that the National Science Foundationís Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering does not collect data on students with disabilities. Moreover, data on disabilities do not tend to be included in comprehensive institutional records; and, if they are, such information is likely to be kept confidential as a means of providing special services to students.

The National Center for Education Statistics through its National Postsecondary Student Aid Study collects data on disability status from a sample of graduate students.[5] Data from the most recent survey reveals that about 3†percent of graduate students studying in all fields—science and engineering as well as non-science and -engineering—reported a disability in 1996. (See appendix table 3-12.)

Students with disabilities are about as likely to be enrolled full time as those without disabilities. In 1996, 34 percent of students with disabilities and 32 percent of those without were enrolled full time in graduate and first-professional programs.[6] (See appendix table 3-12.)

Field choices ^

Women ^

Women accounted for roughly half or more than half of all graduate students in some science fields: in 1997, for example, 71 percent of the graduate students in psychology were women, as were 50 percent in the biological sciences, and 49 percent in the social sciences. (See figure†3-2.) Between 27 percent and 38 percent of the graduate students in most other science fields—physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematical sciences; computer sciences; and agricultural sciences—were female. In contrast, however, fewer than 20†percent of the graduate students in engineering were women.

Minorities ^

The field distributions of science and engineering graduate students for the various racial/ethnic groups are quite different. Larger percentages of black, Hispanic, and American Indian students, as well as of white students, were in the social and behavioral sciences compared to Asian students in 1997. More specifically, half or more of black, Hispanic, and American Indian students and 40†percent of white students were in psychology or the social sciences compared with 20 percent of Asian students. On the other hand, larger percentages of Asian graduate students than of other groups were in engineering and computer science. (See text table 3-4.)

Persons with disabilities ^

There are substantial variations in graduate field choice based on disability status. Smaller percentages of graduate students with disabilities than of those without disabilities were in the life and physical sciences and in engineering, computer science, and mathematics in 1996. Roughly the same proportions of graduate students with and without disabilities were in the social and behavioral sciences and in many non-science and -engineering fields. On the other hand, a much higher percentage of students with disabilities than of those without disabilities were enrolled in graduate health programs. (See figure 3-6 and appendix table 3-13.)

Enrollment status ^

Women ^

Regarding enrollment status (full- versus part-time enrollment), the proportions of men and women are about equal. In 1997, 68 percent of female and 72 percent of male graduate students in the sciences were enrolled full time. In engineering, 67 percent of women and 65 percent of men were enrolled full time. (See appendix table 3-14.)

Minorities ^

There is little variation by racial/ethnic group in full- versus part-time science and engineering graduate enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Roughly 60 percent to 65 percent of each racial/ethnic group were enrolled full time; the single exception to this was American Indian students, 70 percent of whom were enrolled full time. (See appendix table 3-15.)

Persons with disabilities ^

Students with disabilities[7] are about equally likely to be enrolled full time in all fields as those without disabilities. In 1996, 34 percent of students with disabilities and 32 percent of those without disabilities were enrolled full time in graduate and first-professional[8] programs in 1996. (See appendix table 3-12.)

Sources of financial support ^

Women ^

Among full-time graduate students in engineering in 1997, the primary sources of financial support for men and women were similar: 25 percent of men and 27 percent of women relied primarily on self support, 36 percent of men and 37 percent of women relied primarily on institutional support, and 24 percent of men and 23 percent of women relied primarily on Federal support. (See appendix table 3-16.)

In the sciences, institutional support was the primary source of support for 45 percent of men and 43 percent of women who were enrolled full time. Female graduate students in the sciences were more likely than males to be self-supported (35 percent versus 26 percent), but within science fields the differences are generally smaller. Similarly, female full-time graduate students were less likely than males to have Federal support (16 percent versus 21†percent) in the sciences as a whole, but within science fields the differences are generally smaller. In each major science field, however, a lower percentage of female full-time graduate students than male had Federal support.

Minorities ^

Among U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering graduate students enrolled full time for the full year, a smaller proportion of Asians (21 percent) received loans than of whites (36 percent) or of underrepresented minorities[9] (43 percent). On the other hand, larger percentages of Asians than of other groups received research assistantships and teaching assistantships. (See appendix table 3-17.) A larger share of underrepresented minorities than of whites or Asians received grants. These differences may be due at least in part to variations in field as well as eligibility for various types of aid. For example, Asians who entered graduate school as students on temporary visas may not have been eligible for many Federal loan programs.

Persons with disabilities ^

Although the National Center for Education Statistics collects data through its National Postsecondary Student Aid Study on disability status from a sample of graduate students and provides information on field and enrollment status, the number of students with disabilities in the sample is too small to generate reliable data on financial support for those in science and engineering programs.

References ^

Claiborne, William. 1997. "California Ban on Affirmative Action Cleared." Washington Post, August 28:A1.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 1999. Fall Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, 1996. NCES 1999-239. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Pearson, Willie Jr. 1998. "The Career Patterns of African American Ph.D. Chemists." Final report to the National Science Foundation.

Pressley, Sue Ann. 1997. "Texas Campus Attracts Fewer Minorities." Washington Post, August 28:A1.

Syverson, Peter D., and Lisa R. Bagley. 1999. Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 1986 to 1997. Washington DC: Council of Graduate Schools.

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Footnotes

[1] Data refer to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.

[2] Hopwood v. Texas 78 F.3d, 932 (5th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 2581 (1996).

[3] The Regents of the University of California Policy Ensuring Equal Treatment Admissions (SP-1), approved July 20, 1995.

[4] The Higher Education Act of 1965, Title III, Section 316 (PL 89-329), as amended and 20 U.S.C. 1059c.

[5] The survey defines students with disabilities as those who reported having one or more of the following conditions: a specific learning disability, a visual handicap, hard of hearing, deafness, a speech disability, an orthopedic handicap, or a health impairment.

[6] First-professional programs include those in chiropractic medicine, medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.

[7] The source (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1995-96 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study) defines students with disabilities as those who reported that they had one or more of the following conditions: a specific learning disability, a visual handicap, hard of hearing, deafness, a speech disability, an orthopedic handicap, or a health impairment.

[8] Includes chiropractic medicine, medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.

[9] Underrepresented minority categories are American Indian; black, non-Hispanic; and Hispanic.


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