Science and Engineering Graduate Enrollment Drops
Enrollment of science and engineering (S&E)
graduate students dropped for the second year in a row, a recent data
brief from NSF's Science Resources Studies division announced. The total
number of students fell from a high of 436,233 in 1993 to 423,922 in 1995.
The numbers are likely to continue to decline, predicts Joan Burrelli,
Resource Analyst and author of the data brief. The number of first-year
students has been declining since 1992, she explains.
Burrelli suggests the slump in the job market may be responsible for
the decline in graduate students. "The fields that are declining, such
as math and physical sciences, are also the fields where the jobs are
tight, whereas enrollment in biological sciences has stayed steady and
so have the jobs."
The decline in enrollment is not reflected equally among all sectors
of the student population. The enrollment of non-U.S. citizens has been
declining since 1992 and dropped almost 4% in 1995. The number of U.S.
citizen and permanent visa students also fell by 1% in 1995.
However, within the U.S. citizen and permanent visa category, Burrelli
found that the number of black, Hispanic and American Indian S&E graduate
students has been increasing over the last several years. In 1995, the
enrollment of blacks rose 4%, Hispanics, 6%, and American Indians, 10%.
Enrollment of Asians decreased 2%.
The number of men enrolled in graduate S&E programs fell 3% in 1995,
while the number of women increased 1%. "As a result of women's rising
enrollment and men's falling enrollment, women's share of graduate S&E
enrollment increased to 38%," writes Burrelli.
Between 1994 and 1995, the fields of study facing the biggest decreases
include physics (down 6%), mathematical sciences (down 6%) and engineering
For the same time period, increases were seen in agricultural sciences
(up 2%) and biological sciences (up 1%). The number of students enrolled
in social sciences remained stable.
The data for the brief were obtained from the 1995 Survey of Graduate
Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. For a more detailed
report, see the SRS publication, Selected Data on Graduate Students
and Post-doctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 1995.
SRS documents are available via NSF's Web site: http://www.nsf.gov,
or by calling 703-306-1773.