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Persons With Disabilities

Characteristics of the graduate student population were similar to those of the undergraduate population with respect to comparisons of the total student body to students reporting that they had a disability. About 7.5 percent of graduate students reported a disability, almost the same percentage as for undergraduates; the shares were almost equal for male and female students. Veterans as a group included a higher proportion of persons with disabilities than did nonveterans; older students (30 years old and older) also had higher proportions with disabilities than did younger students. (See appendix table 6-31.)
Persons with disabilities comprise larger proportions of the graduate student population in some disciplines than in others; the proportion of students with disabilities was higher in psychology, nearly 13 percent, and lower in mathematics (under 5 percent) and physical sciences (just over 5 percent). [3] (See figure 6-15.) Engineering also has one of the lower proportions of students with disabilities, 7 percent, based on self-reported surveys.

Figure 6-15

Despite the similarities in undergraduate and graduate student comparisons, there is some evidence that the transition to graduate education may be difficult for students with disabilities in some fields. A project to study engineering students with disabilities identified only about one-third as many of the graduate students as of undergraduates as having a disability. The proportions were even smaller at higher enrollment levels: The percentage of master's candidates in engineering who had disabilities was more than twice as high as the percentage of doctoral candidates with disabilities (0.5 percent versus 0.2 percent) (Engineering Workforce Commission 1994). (See appendix table 6-32.)
The percentages of graduate engineering students with disabilities reported by institutions able to respond was only about one-third of 1 percent and the percentage was virtually the same for women as for men. The most common disability among these engineering graduate students was mobility impairment, followed by multiple disabilities and learning disabilities. (See figure 6-16.) The engineering specialty chosen by the largest number of students was electrical/computer engineering.

Figure 6-16

3. These data are from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, 1990. Respondents were college students, both undergraduate and graduate. Among the questions ascertaining demographic and enrollment characteristics, students were asked if they had a functional limitation, disability, or handicap. Each survey participant responded to a set of six separate questions about particular disabilities. The responses were weighted to produce national estimates for the student population. See Technical Notes for more information. Up arrow
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