- Financing Higher Education
- Higher Education Faculty
- Higher Education Enrollments
- Higher Education Degrees
- Global S&E Education
Financing Higher Education
Tuition increases at colleges and universities in the United States have grown rapidly for the past two decades, although the rate of increase slowed in the past few years.
- Compared with the previous year, average tuition and fees rose 6.3% for academic year 2006–07 for in-state students in public 4-year colleges, 5.9% for students in private 4-year colleges, and 4.1% for students in public 2-year colleges.
- As state spending on higher education rose from FY 2005 to FY 2007, the rate of tuition increase at public 4-year colleges slowed.
Levels of debt for both undergraduate and graduate education are high.
- Among 2003–04 bachelor’s degree recipients in all fields who took out loans, the median level of debt was $19,300.
- At the time of doctorate conferral, about half of 2005 S&E doctorate recipients reported having debt from either their undergraduate or graduate education: 27% reported undergraduate debt and 33% reported graduate debt.
- High levels of educational debt were most associated with graduate education: 10% of S&E doctorate recipients had more than $50,000 of graduate debt but only 1% had similar amounts of undergraduate debt.
In 2005, about 21% of full-time S&E graduate students received more than half of their financial support for graduate education from the federal government.
- Most (69%) S&E graduate students primarily funded by the federal government are funded under grants to universities for academic research.
- Fellowships and traineeships fund 22% of federally funded full-time S&E graduate students.
- Federal support for graduate education reaches relatively more students in the physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; agricultural sciences; biological sciences; and engineering. Relatively few students receive federal support in mathematics, computer sciences, social sciences, psychology, and medical/other life sciences.
Higher Education Faculty
The types of assignments and methods used to grade students vary by discipline.
- Most (83%) instructional faculty use lecture/discussion as the primary instructional method for undergraduate classes.
- More than half of natural sciences and engineering faculty require their undergraduate students to participate in group projects (compared with 48% of social and behavioral sciences faculty), and more than 60% require lab assignments (compared with 24% of social and behavioral sciences faculty).
- The use of term papers increased in all disciplines between 1992 and 2003. Social and behavioral sciences faculty are more likely than faculty in other S&E fields to require written work of their students: 85% of social and behavioral sciences faculty require term papers of their undergraduate students compared with 76% of agricultural/biological/health sciences faculty and 57% of physical/mathematics/computer sciences/engineering faculty.
Higher Education Enrollments
Enrollment in U.S. higher education is projected to continue rising because of increases in the U.S. college-age population.
- Enrollment rose from 12.7 million in 1986 to 16.9 million in 2004.
- The number of individuals ages 20–24 in the U.S. population is projected to rise through 2050 although the demographic composition will shift.
- Increased enrollment in higher education is projected to come mainly from minority groups, particularly Asians and Hispanics.
S&E graduate enrollment in the United States continued to rise, reaching a new peak of 583,200 in fall 2005.
- Following a long period of growth, graduate enrollment in S&E declined in the latter half of the 1990s then increased steadily since 1999.
- In fall 2005, graduate enrollment increased in most S&E fields except computer sciences and engineering.
- Graduate enrollment in computer sciences and engineering decreased in the past 2 years because of declining foreign student enrollment.
Total enrollment of foreign S&E graduate students dropped in fall 2005 for the second year in a row, but first-time full-time enrollment increased in 2005 after 3 years of decline.
- S&E graduate students on temporary visas increased from 20% to 25% of all S&E graduate students from 1985 to 2005.
- The number of first-time full-time S&E graduate students with temporary visas declined 18% from 2001 through 2004 but increased 4% in fall 2005.
Higher Education Degrees
The number of S&E bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded annually continued to rise, reaching record highs in 2005.
- The numbers of S&E bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded reached new peaks of 466,000 and 120,000, respectively, in 2005.
- Most S&E fields (except computer sciences) experienced increases in the number of degrees awarded in 2005.
- In computer sciences, the number of bachelor’s degrees increased sharply from 1998 to 2004 but decreased in 2005.
Women earned more than half of all bachelor’s degrees and S&E bachelor’s degrees in 2005 but major variations persist among fields.
- Women earned more than half of bachelor’s degrees in psychology (78%), agricultural sciences (51%), biological sciences (62%), chemistry (52%), and social sciences (54%).
- Men earned the majority of bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering (80%), computer sciences (78%), and physics (79%).
Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives choose S&E fields at the same rate as whites.
- Among bachelor’s degree recipients, about one-third of the degrees earned by every racial/ethnic group (except Asians/Pacific Islanders) are in S&E. Asians/Pacific Islanders, as a group, earn almost half of their bachelor’s degrees in S&E.
Students in the United States on temporary visas earned only a small share (4%) of S&E bachelor’s degrees in 2005.
- The number of S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded to students on temporary visas increased over the past two decades from 14,100 in 1985 to 18,400 in 2005.
- In 2005, these students earned 8% of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer sciences and 7% in engineering.
Master’s degrees in S&E fields increased from 70,600 in 1985 to 120,000 in 2005.
- Increases in master’s degrees occurred in most major S&E fields.
- Master’s degrees in engineering and physical sciences decreased from 1995 to 2002 but increased in recent years, and master’s degrees in computer sciences generally increased through 2004 but dropped in 2005.
The number and percentage of master’s degrees awarded to women in all major S&E fields (with the exception of computer sciences) have increased since 1985.
- Since 1985, the number of S&E master’s degrees earned by women more than doubled, rising from 22,300 in 1985 to 53,000 in 2005.
- In computer sciences, the number of master’s degrees awarded to women increased through 2004 but dropped in 2005, and the percentage of degrees awarded to women dropped from 34% in 2001 to 29% in 2005.
- The number of master’s degrees earned by men grew more slowly from 48,200 in 1985 to 67,000 in 2005, with most of the growth occurring between 2002 and 2004.
The number of S&E master’s degrees awarded increased for all racial/ethnic groups from 1985 to 2005.
- The proportion of master’s degrees in S&E fields earned by U.S. citizen and permanent resident racial and ethnic minorities increased over the past two decades.
- Asians/Pacific Islanders accounted for 7% of master’s degrees in 2005, an increase from 5% in 1985. Blacks and Hispanics also registered gains during this period (from 3% to 6% for blacks and from 2% to 4% for Hispanics). American Indians/Alaska Natives earned 0.4% of S&E master’s degrees in 1985 and 2005.
- The percentage of S&E master’s degrees earned by white students fell from 68% in 1985 to 47% in 2005. Meanwhile, the percentage of degrees earned by minorities and temporary residents increased, and the number of S&E master’s degrees earned by white students dropped from 1996 to 2002 before increasing again.
Foreign students make up a much higher proportion of S&E master’s degree recipients than they do of bachelor’s or associate’s degree recipients.
- During the past two decades, the share of S&E master’s degrees earned by temporary residents rose from 19% to 28%.
- S&E master’s degrees awarded to students on temporary visas rose from approximately 12,500 in 1985 to about 33,500 in 2005 and increased in most S&E fields during that period.
The number of S&E doctorates awarded by U.S. academic institutions reached a new peak of almost 30,000 in 2005.
- The largest growth in the number of doctorate awards was in engineering and the biological and agricultural sciences.
- Virtually all of the growth reflected higher numbers of S&E doctorates earned by temporary visa holders.
Students on temporary visas earned more than a third (36%) of all S&E doctorates awarded in the United States in 2005.
- The number of S&E doctorates earned by temporary residents rose to a new peak of 10,800 in 2005.
- Temporary residents earned half or more of all U.S. doctorates in engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, physics, and economics in 2005.
Most foreign recipients of U.S. S&E doctorates plan to stay in the United States after graduation.
- Among 2002–05 graduates, 74% of foreign S&E doctorate recipients with known plans reported they planned to stay in the United States and 49% had accepted firm offers of employment.
- The percentage of students who had firm plans to remain in the United States dropped after 2001, then increased in 2005.
- More than 90% of 2002–05 U.S. S&E doctoral recipients from China and 88% of those from India reported plans to stay in the United States, and 60% and 63%, respectively, reported accepting firm offers for employment or postdoctoral research in the United States. The percentages of U.S. S&E doctorate recipients from China and India with definite plans to stay in the United States dropped from 1998–2001 to 2002–05. The decreases were almost entirely among doctorate recipients in computer sciences and engineering.
The number of doctorate recipients with S&E postdoctoral appointments at U.S. universities more than doubled in the past two decades.
- Temporary visa holders accounted for 55% of S&E postdocs in academic institutions in fall 2005.
- More than two-thirds of S&E postdocs in academic institutions are in the biological, medical, and other life sciences fields.
Global S&E Education
Educational attainment of the U.S. population has long been among the highest in the world, but other countries are catching up.
- The United States continues to have the highest percentage of the population ages 25–64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, among the population ages 25–34, the United States (30%) lags behind Norway (37%), Israel (34%), the Netherlands (32%), and South Korea (31%) in the percentage with at least a bachelor’s degree.
- The United States ranks 4th (behind Russia, Israel, and Canada) in the population ages 25–64 with any postsecondary degree (including 2-year and 4-year or higher degrees), and it ranks 10th (behind Russia, Canada, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, and Norway) in the population ages 25–34 with any postsecondary degree.
Global competition for foreign students increased in the past two decades.
- The U.S. share of foreign students declined in recent years, although the United States remains the predominant destination for foreign students (accounting for 22% of internationally mobile students in 2004).
- The United Kingdom, Germany, and France also attract large numbers of foreign students, accounting for 11%, 10%, and 9%, respectively, of internationally mobile students in 2004.