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Graduate Enrollment Across the Board
Graduate Students: Some Characteristics
Graduate Outcomes: Masters, Doctorates, and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering
SIDEBAR: Pluses and Minuses for Women Graduate Students in Physics
SIDEBAR: Foreign Graduate Students: Stayers and Leavers
SIDEBAR: The Rites and Wrongs of Passage: Critical Transitions for Female PhD Students in the Sciences

Graduate Enrollment Across the Board

Graduate education constitutes a critical step in the preparation of all scholars and professionals, including scientists and engineers. During this time of focused study, choices become firmer and the broad knowledge gained at earlier levels deepens and often narrows. Graduate education in the United States sets a world standard. Not only is it highly regarded by students in this country, but also the numbers of students from abroad coming to study here-particularly in science and engineering fields-testify to its esteem worldwide.

Graduate school enrollment [1] in this Nation increased in all disciplines by more than 22 percent during the 1980s (NSF 1994). Total full- and part-time graduate enrollment rose in all fields by an average of 2 percent per year between 1986 and 1993; the number of women increased faster than the number of men (see figure 4-1) (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 23). [2]

The overall growth during those 7 years in graduate enrollment occurred in all fields reported; however, the nonscience areas of engineering, business, and public administration lost students between 1992 and 1993 (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 27).

In addition, student composition in all disciplines became more diverse. Enough more women enrolled that, by the middle of the 1980s, they were a majority among graduate students (NSF 1994, p. 61). More women than men were studying in all fields in 1993 except engineering, business, and the biological and physical sciences (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 4). Business and education enroll the largest number of graduate students, accounting for 14 and 20 percent of 1993 enrollment, respectively. That year, 62 percent of the students in business were men, and 73 percent of those in education were women (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 4-5).

Graduate enrollment grew consistently but not steadily across most fields and within most racial/ethnic groups between 1986 and 1993 (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 31). In 1993, minorities were about 16 percent of graduate enrollment in all fields (see figure 4-2). Almost one-half of Asian graduate students with U.S. citizenship or permanent visas were enrolled in science and engineering programs, compared with about one-fourth or less of black, Hispanic, or American Indian graduate students (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 30). Students of different racial/ethnic groups varied widely in their choice of fields of study. Education is the most popular field for all U.S. graduate students except for Asians (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 13).

Women registered gains over the last decade in both graduate enrollment and degrees, however, and underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities made limited progress. Among minorities with U.S. citizenship, blacks were best represented, accounting for 42 percent of minority graduate enrollment. Hispanic enrollment was slightly lower than Asian. More women than men from underrepresented minorities were enrolled in graduate school; nearly twice as many black women attended as black men (Syverson and Maguire 1995, p. 11).

Progress in baccalaureate enrollment has been slower in science and engineering fields for women, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians than in graduate study overall. All these groups except American Indians earned more science and engineering doctoral degrees in 1993 than in 1986; Asians increased their degree earning by 97 percent compared to the 18 percent more doctorates awarded to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (See appendix table 4-26.) Graduate students with disabilities enrolled in science and engineering programs (though not in engineering itself) at a rate similar to their proportion in the post baccalaureate population as a whole. (See appendix table 4-4.)

[1] Unless otherwise noted, data come from National Science Foundation (NSF) universe surveys, including all higher education institutions offering graduate programs. NSF makes imputations for nonresponse.
[2] The Council of Graduate Schools (in 1995, Peter D. Syverson and Moira J. Maguire) annually summarizes data gathered on a survey it sends with the Graduate Record Examinations Board to the some 650 graduate schools that have membership in the council or its regional associations. About 600 reply. The responding institutions enroll about 75 percent of the Nation's master's candidates and more than 90 percent of the doctoral students (citizens and foreign students alike) (personal communication, Syverson, October 24, 1995).

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