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Graduation: Degrees

Associate Degrees and Certificates
Baccalaureate Degrees

Associate Degrees and Certificates

Associate degrees offer one measure of completion for courses of study below the baccalaureate. All higher education institutions may award associate degrees; however, they usually complete courses of study only in 2-year colleges, and many students who do preliminary work there choose to transfer to baccalaureate-and-above institutions without earning degrees. Hence, dropout rates for 2-year institutions often lack the significance of attrition before the baccalaureate-failure to reenroll may mark an educational transition forward rather than a loss.

More than a third of the students who eventually go into science and engineering fields begin their education in 2-year colleges. (See appendix table 3-17.) Just under a third of these students in 2-year colleges transfer after earning an associate degree; more than two-thirds go on without one. The number of students earning associate degrees in science and engineering fields declined between 1985 and 1993; over 16,000 fewer degrees were awarded in 1993. American Indians, however, continued to earn an increasing number of associate degrees. (See appendix table 3-23 and figure 3-8.)

See appendix table 3-23.

In 1993, underrepresented minorities earned 9,900 associate degrees in science and engineering (16 percent), up from 9,076 in 1985 (12 percent). (See appendix table 3-23.) They were more highly represented in some fields than in others. In the two fields awarding 77 percent of the science and engineering associate degrees, however-computer science and engineering technology-they earned only 22 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

Women made up almost 47 percent of students earning associate degrees in 1993, excluding engineering technology (the most populous science field at this level). Including the 38,473 degrees in engineering technology, women's representation sinks to 25 percent. Minority women tended to follow the pattern for all women, but percentages are higher for those underrepresented.

Baccalaureate Degrees

In 1993, 1,179,278 bachelor's degrees were awarded in all fields. Women received more than half of the total number, as they have since 1982. (See appendix table 3-24.) Their share has continued to increase; by 1993, women earned 641,742 bachelor's degrees (or over 54 percent). Of the total baccalaureate degrees awarded that year, 31 percent were in science and engineering fields. (See appendix table 3-25.) In those fields combined, women earned 45 percent of the bachelor's degrees granted in 1993, up from 25 percent in 1966. (See appendix table 3-24 and figure 3-9.) In the combined science fields alone, however, women earned more than half the degrees (51 percent).

See appendix table 3-26.

In most science and engineering fields, the fraction of degrees going to women increased between 1983 and 1993; however, women earned fewer than half the bachelor's degrees in all these fields except in psychology-where their representation went from 68 percent in 1983 to 73 percent in 1993-sociology (68 percent) in 1993, and biological science (52 percent). (See appendix table 3-26.)

The proportion of women declined between 1983 and 1993 in three fields. The proportion of women earning bachelor's degrees in computer science decreased from 36 percent in 1983 to 28 percent in 1993; in economics, the percentages slipped from 32 to 30; and in sociology, the percentages decreased from 70 to 68. On the other hand, women went from 12 percent of the oceanography degrees in 1983 to 27 percent 10 years later. Women earned more baccalaureates in mathematical sciences than in 1983 but fewer in computer sciences.

Women earned low but growing proportions of engineering degrees (going from 13 percent to 16 percent over the decade) and earth, atmospheric, and oceanic sciences (from over a quarter to under a third of the field). (See appendix table 3-25.) For men, on the other hand, engineering was the second most popular field, trailing social sciences in number of degrees awarded. Women made the biggest gains in chemical engineering (from 21 percent to 32 percent) and in civil engineering (from 14 percent to 18 percent). (See appendix table 3-26.)

In 1993, U.S. citizens and foreign students on permanent visas earned 1,122,276 bachelor's degrees. Underrepresented minorities earned roughly 12 percent of all bachelor's degrees, the same percentage they earned in science and engineering combined. The number of degrees awarded to blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians has been rising. (See figure 3-10.) In 1993, underrepresented minorities earned 41 percent more bachelor's degrees in nonscience and engineering fields than in 1985. The proportion rose faster in science and engineering-they earned 47 percent more degrees than they did 8 years earlier.

See appendix table 3-27.

In the last decade, although all minorities have steadily increased their share of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering, [19] important differences among groups and, by gender, within minorities are evident. (See text table 3-3 and appendix table 3-28.) Although Asians' share of bachelor's degrees was greater than their proportion in the population, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians continued to be underrepresented. Asians, who constitute 3 percent of the population according to Census Bureau data, earned 7 percent of science and engineering baccalaureates in 1993. Blacks (about 12 percent of the population) also earned 7 percent of the degrees.

In 1993, women earned 108,958 more baccalaureates than men (5 percent), and they also earned the majority of degrees in science fields. Underrepresented minority women continued to earn more degrees than black, Hispanic, and American Indian men. So few minority women earned engineering degrees, however, that they remained underrepresented among students achieving baccalaureates in science and engineering combined.

[19] NSF reports race/ethnicity of bachelor's degree recipients only for students who are U.S. citizens or foreign students on permanent visas. Discussions here of degree awards, therefore, will also use this group as the reference group. Because at the master's and doctoral levels, the number of awards to foreign citizens is substantial, numerically and proportionately, establishing comparable comparison groups across degree levels is important.


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