Division of Science Resources Studies
Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
NSF 01-312, January 11, 2001

Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Increases for the First Time Since 1993

Joan S. Burrelli



Computer science enrollment was up 12 percent





















Total enrollment was up 2 percent; enrollment of students with temporary visas was up 8 percent.


Enrollment of science and engineering (S&E) graduate students in the United States increased in 1999 after 5 consecutive annual decreases. (Table 1). In Fall 1999, 411,308 students were enrolled in S&E programs at the graduate level, a 2-percent increase from the 1998 number of 404,903. The number of full-time students enrolled for the first time in graduate science and engineering programs increased for the third consecutive year, signaling possible continued increases in total enrollment in the future.

Enrollment by Field

Among science fields, the greatest gain in enrollment (12 percent) was in computer science. Other major science fields showed more modest gains, including agricultural sciences and social sciences (both up 1 percent). Graduate enrollment in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematical sciences; and psychology declined in 1999, continuing previous trends. (Table 1)

Image of Table 1. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering, by field:  Fall 1992-99

Engineering enrollment rose 1 percent in 1999, reversing a decline in enrollment that began in 1993. A number of engineering fields accounted for the increase, including aerospace, electrical, mechanical, biomedical, and petroleum engineering. However, enrollment in several larger engineering fields (chemical, civil, and industrial engineering) continued to decline.

Enrollment by Citizenship and Race/ethnicity

Students with temporary visas more than accounted for the increase in total S&E graduate enrollment. Enrollment of students with temporary visas increased 8 percent from 102,028 in 1998 to 109,904 in 1999. (Table 2) This increase was the third consecutive increase in foreign enrollment, following a four-year decline between 1992 and 1996 during which enrollment dropped 10 percent. The majority of the increase in foreign student enrollment was in computer science (up 19 percent) and in engineering (up 10 percent).

Image of Table 2. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering, by citizenship and race/ethnicity:  Fall 1992-99

Enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents dropped from 302,875 in 1998 to 301,404 in 1999. Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the number of white, non-Hispanic graduate S&E students dropped from 220,689 in 1998 to 216,865 in 1999, the 6th consecutive annual drop since 1993. Enrollment of blacks and Asians rose 3 percent each and enrollment of Hispanics rose 7 percent. American Indian enrollment dropped 3 percent. (Table 2 and Figure 1)

Image of Figure 1. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering, by field:  Fall 1992-99

Data presented in this Data Brief are from the 1999 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Data were collected from approximately 11,700 departments at 599 institutions of higher education in the United States and outlying areas. The departmental response rate was 98.8 percent; however, 18 percent of the responding departments required partial imputation of missing data. More detailed data are available in the forthcoming report, Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 1999.

This Data Brief was prepared by:

Joan S. Burrelli
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

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