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News Release 10-092

Data Show Increase in First-Time Science and Engineering Graduate Students

First-time, full-time enrollments increased 7.8 percent in 2008

Photo of graduate students seated around a table.

New full-time grad students entering S&E fields in fall 2008 is largest in GSS survey history.

June 2, 2010

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

In 2008, there were more students enrolled in U.S. science and engineering (S&E) graduate programs than in the previous year. New National Science Foundation (NSF) data show graduate enrollment in S&E programs grew 2.5 percent over comparable data for 2007. Noteworthy was the 7.8 percent increase in first-time, full-time enrollments of S&E graduate students, and the increase occurred across all S&E fields.

NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics released the data today in an InfoBrief posted on the federal agency's website. The survey, the 2008 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS), was cosponsored by NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

These data can be seen as leading indicators of growth in S&E graduate degrees at the master's and doctoral level. They help fulfill NSF's mandate to provide federal agencies information for policy formulation.

Overall, the class of new full-time graduate students entering S&E fields in fall 2008 was the largest in the history of the survey, which began in 1973. The numbers also showed a 10-year span in which enrollment in S&E graduate programs increased each year, with the exception of a 1-year decline from 2003 to 2004.

A key component in growth during this period was the variation in first-time enrollment by citizenship. From 2001 to 2003, growth was driven by increases in enrollment by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. From 2007 to 2008, increases in first-time, full-time enrollment of foreign students on temporary visas was 11 percent, which outpaced the 5.9 percent for U.S. citizens and permanent residents in S&E fields. The decline in 2003-04 was driven by decreasing foreign enrollment.

GSS collects data on the numbers and characteristics of students pursuing graduate degrees from U.S. academic institutions in science, engineering, and selected health fields. It also collects data on postdoctoral appointees and non-faculty researchers with doctoral degrees.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, email:

Program Contacts
Emilda B. Rivers, NSF, (703) 292-7773, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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