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Chapter 2. Higher Education in Science and Engineering

Graduate Education, Enrollment, and Degrees in the United States

Graduate S&E educational institutions are a major source of both the highly skilled workers of the future and the research needed for a knowledge-based economy. This section includes indicators related to graduate enrollment, financial support for graduate education, recent trends in the number of earned degrees in S&E fields, and participation by women, minorities, and foreign students in graduate education in U.S. academic institutions.

Graduate Enrollment in S&E

S&E graduate enrollment in the United States reached a new peak of 597,600 in fall 2006. Following a long period of growth that began in the 1970s (NSB 2008), graduate enrollment in S&E declined in the latter half of the 1990s, then increased steadily through 2006 (appendix table 2-14 ). Growth occurred through 2006 in most major science and engineering fields except agricultural sciences (which remained fairly flat) and computer sciences (which has been declining for several years). In engineering, enrollment dropped in recent years but rose in 2006. According to more recent data from the Engineering Workforce Commission and the American Society for Engineering Education (Gibbons 2008), graduate engineering enrollment continued to rise in 2007. Moreover, the number of full-time engineering students reached a new peak in 2007 of 104,900 (figure 2-4 ; appendix table 2-15).

The number of full-time students enrolled for the first time in S&E graduate departments offers a good indicator of developing trends. The number of first-time full-time S&E graduate students also reached a new peak (116,500) in 2006. It declined in the mid-1990s in all major S&E fields but increased in most fields through 2006 (appendix table 2-16 ). Growth was greatest in biological sciences, medical/other life sciences, and social and behavioral sciences. After declines in recent years, first-time full-time graduate enrollment in engineering and computer sciences increased in 2005 and 2006.

Enrollment by Sex
The increase in S&E graduate enrollment occurred across all major U.S. citizen and permanent resident demographic groups. The number of women enrolled in S&E graduate programs has increased steadily since 1993. In contrast, the number of men enrolled in S&E graduate programs declined from 1993 through the end of that decade before increasing through 2003 and remaining more or less at that level through 2006 (appendix table 2-14 ).

Women's rising percentages in S&E fields also continued. Women made up 42% of S&E graduate students in 1993 and 50% in 2006, although large variations among fields persist. In 2006, women constituted the majority of graduate students in psychology (76%), medical/other life sciences (78%), biological sciences (56%), and social sciences (54%). They constituted close to half of graduate students in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (47%) and agricultural sciences (48%) and more than one-third of graduate students in mathematics (37%), chemistry (40%), and astronomy (34%). Their percentages in computer sciences (25%), engineering (23%), and physics (20%) were low in 2006, although higher than in 1993 (23%, 15%, and 14%, respectively) (appendix table 2-14 ).

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
The proportion of underrepresented minority (black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native) students in graduate S&E programs increased from about 8% in 1993 to about 11% in 2006.[10] Increases occurred in all major science fields and in engineering during that period (appendix table 2-17 ). In 2006, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives as a group made up 6%–7% of graduate enrollment in many S&E fields (engineering; mathematics; physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and computer sciences), 8%–10% of graduate enrollment in agricultural and biological sciences, 15% in medical/other life sciences, 17% in social sciences, and 19% in psychology. Asians/Pacific Islanders accounted for about 6% of S&E graduate enrollment in 2006, up from 5% in 1993.

The number of white S&E graduate students decreased from 1994 to 2001 and then increased through 2006, whereas the numbers of Asian, black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students increased almost every year from 1993 through 2006 (figure 2-8 ). The rise in the numbers of black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native graduate students occurred in most S&E fields. The number of Asian students increased in most science fields but decreased in engineering and in computer sciences in the past 3 or 4 years (appendix table 2-17 ).

Foreign Student Enrollment
Foreign graduate student enrollment in S&E grew from 110,300 in 1993 to 155,000 in 2003, declined for 2 years, and increased slightly in 2006 to 151,000. Foreign students increased from 22% to 25% of all S&E graduate students from 1993 to 2006 (appendix table 2-17 ). The concentration of foreign enrollment was highest in engineering (45%), computer sciences (44%), physical sciences (40%), mathematics (36%), and economics (52%).[11]

First-time full-time enrollment of foreign S&E graduate students increased in fall 2005 and fall 2006 after declining 18% from 2001 through 2004. The numbers still remain slightly below those of 2001 (appendix table 2-18 ). Declines and subsequent increases were concentrated mainly in engineering and computer sciences, fields heavily favored by foreign students. Foreign students' share of first-time full-time S&E graduate enrollment dropped from 35% in fall 2000 to 30% in fall 2006, with most of the decrease in computer sciences (from 71% to 62%) and engineering (from 61% to 55%) (appendix table 2-18).

According to data collected by the Institute of International Education (IIE 2009), the overall number of foreign graduate students in all fields increased 5% from academic year 2006–07 to 2007–08, with almost all of the increase occurring among master's degree students. The number of foreign doctoral students increased 0.9% to approximately 109,000, and the number of foreign master's students increased 9% to approximately 133,700. The number of new foreign graduate students rose 8%. India, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada are the top places of origin for foreign graduate students. More than half of all foreign graduate students are studying S&E.

More recent data from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services show a continuing increase in foreign graduate students from April 2008 to April 2009, with foreign enrollment in S&E fields growing 8% (appendix table 2-19 ). As in the recent past, most of the growth was in computer sciences (up 13%) and engineering (up 11%). Two countries—India, with 56,680 foreign S&E graduate students, and China, with 36,890—accounted for more than half of the foreign S&E graduates in the United States in April 2009. South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey also sent large numbers of S&E graduate students, although South Korea and Taiwan sent far larger numbers of graduate students in non-S&E fields (primarily business and humanities).

Financial Support for S&E Graduate Education

More than one-third of all S&E graduate students are self-supporting; that is, they rely primarily on loans, their own funds, or family funds for financial support. The other approximately two-thirds receive primary financial support from a variety of sources, including the federal government, university sources, employers, nonprofit organizations, and foreign governments.

Support mechanisms include research assistantships (RAs), teaching assistantships (TAs), fellowships, and traineeships. Sources of funding include federal agency support, nonfederal support, and self-support. Nonfederal support includes state funds, particularly in the large public university systems; these funds are affected by the condition of overall state budgets. Most graduate students, especially those who pursue doctoral degrees, are supported by more than one source or mechanism during their time in graduate school, and some receive support from several different sources and mechanisms in any given academic year.

Other than self-support, RAs are the most prevalent primary mechanism of financial support for S&E graduate students. In 2006, a little more than one-fourth of full-time S&E graduate students were supported primarily by RAs, 18% were primarily supported through TAs, and 12% relied primarily on fellowships or traineeships (appendix table 2-20 ).

Primary mechanisms of support differ widely by S&E field of study (appendix table 2-21 ). For example, in fall 2006 full-time students in physical sciences were financially supported mainly through RAs (42%) and TAs (38%) (figure 2-9 ). RAs also were important in agricultural sciences (57%); biological sciences (42%); earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (41%); and engineering (40%). In mathematics, more than half (53%) of full-time students were supported primarily through TAs and another 21% were self-supported. Full-time students in the social and behavioral sciences were mainly self-supporting (46%) or received TAs (20%), and students in medical/other life sciences were mainly self-supporting (60%).

The federal government served as the primary source of financial support for one-fifth of full-time S&E graduate students in 2006 (appendix table 2-22 ). The federal government plays a substantial role in supporting S&E graduate students through some mechanisms and in some fields, and a smaller role in others. For example, in 2006 the federal government funded 67% of S&E graduate students on traineeships, 50% of those with RAs, and 23% of those with fellowships. Federal financial support for graduate education reaches relatively more students in the biological sciences; the physical sciences; the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and engineering. Relatively fewer students in computer sciences, mathematics, other life sciences, psychology, and social sciences receive federal support (figure 2-10 ). Appendix table 2-22 provides detailed information by field and mechanism. (For information on federal academic R&D funding by discipline, see chapter 5, "Expenditures by Field and Funding Source.")

Most federal financial support for graduate education is in the form of RAs funded through grants to universities for academic research. RAs are the primary mechanism of support for 69% of federally supported full-time S&E graduate students, up from 66% in 1993. Fellowships and traineeships are the means of funding for 21% of the federally funded full-time S&E graduate students. The share of federally supported S&E graduate students receiving traineeships declined from 15% in 1993 to 12% in 2006, and the share receiving fellowships declined from 11% to 10%. For students supported through nonfederal sources in 2006, TAs were the most prominent mechanism (39%), followed by RAs (30%) (appendix table 2-20 ).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NSF support most of the full-time S&E graduate students whose primary support comes from the federal government. In 2006, they supported about 27,600 and 20,300 students, respectively. Trends in federal agency support of graduate students show considerable increases from 1993 to 2006 in the proportion of students funded (NIH, from 27% to 33%; NSF, from 20% to 24%). Support from the U.S. Department of Defense declined from 14% to 11% of federally supported graduate students (appendix table 2-23 ).

For doctoral degree students, notable differences exist in primary support mechanisms by type of doctorate-granting institution. In 2007, the primary support mechanism for S&E doctorate recipients from research universities (i.e., doctorate-granting institutions with very high research activity, which receive the most federal funding) was RAs. For those from medical schools, which are heavily funded by NIH, the primary support mechanism was fellowships or traineeships, and for those from doctoral/research universities, which receive less federal funding, the primary support mechanism was personal funds (table 2-3 ). These differences by type of institution hold for all S&E fields (NSF/SRS 2000). As noted earlier in this chapter, about 70% of S&E doctorate recipients received their doctorate from research universities with very high research activity.

Notable differences also exist for doctoral degree students in primary support mechanisms by sex, race/ethnicity, and citizenship. Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 2007, men were more likely than women to be supported by RAs (29% compared with 21%) and women were more likely than men to support themselves from personal sources (21% compared with 13%). Also, among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, whites and Asians were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to receive primary support from RAs (26% and 32%, respectively), whereas underrepresented minorities depended more on fellowships or traineeships (35%). The primary source of support for doctoral degree students with temporary visas was an RA (54%) (appendix table 2-24 ).

White and Asian men, as well as foreign doctoral degree students, are more likely than white and Asian women and underrepresented minority doctoral degree students of both sexes to receive doctorates in engineering and physical sciences, fields largely supported by RAs. Women and underrepresented minorities are more likely than other groups to receive doctorates in social sciences and psychology, fields in which self-support is prevalent. Differences in type of support by sex, race/ethnicity, or citizenship remain, however, even accounting for doctorate field (NSF/SRS 2000). Although remaining differences in self-support are small (2–3 percentage points) in some fields, differences between men and women in self-support remain substantial (13–25 percentage points) in computer and health sciences, and differences between underrepresented minorities and whites in RA support remain substantial (15–31 percentage points) in agricultural sciences; computer sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; physical sciences; and engineering.

At the time of doctoral degree conferral, 44% of S&E doctorate recipients have debt related to their undergraduate or graduate education. More than one-fourth have some undergraduate debt and about one-third owe money directly related to graduate education. In 2007, 27% of S&E doctorate recipients reported having undergraduate debt and 30% reported having graduate debt. For some, debt levels were high, especially for graduate debt: 0.3% reported more than $70,000 of undergraduate debt and 4% reported more than $70,000 of graduate debt (appendix table 2-25 ).

Levels of debt vary widely by doctorate fields. In 2007, high levels of graduate debt were most common among doctorate recipients in psychology, social sciences, and medical/other health sciences. Psychology doctorate recipients were most likely to report having graduate debt and also high levels of debt.[12] In 2007, 16% of psychology doctoral degree recipients reported graduate debt of more than $70,000. Doctorate recipients in engineering; biological sciences; computer sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; and physical sciences were least likely to report graduate debt. A higher percentage of doctorate recipients in non-S&E fields than those in S&E fields reported graduate debt.

Interdisciplinary Education

The scientific community increasingly views interdisciplinary research as critical to innovation and scientific advance and as a means to respond to emerging complex problems (COSEPUP 1995, 2004; NSF/DGE 2009). Over the past decade, academic institutions and federal funding agencies have made efforts to promote interdisciplinary education and research. Although new programs and efforts have arisen, academic institutions and funding agencies remain for the most part organized around disciplines; thus, university structures, evaluation and promotion practices, and funding opportunities often do not facilitate interdisciplinary research (NSF/DGE 2009). Measurement of interdisciplinary enrollment and degree attainment also remains a challenge, as students often are assigned to only one department or program to avoid duplication in records, and schools are asked to report the enrollment or degree in only one department or program. As interdisciplinary degree programs become established and award degrees, measurement becomes easier. For example, the number of doctoral degrees increased in interdisciplinary fields such as neuroscience (from 117 in 1982 to 737 in 2006), materials science (from 147 in 1982 to 582 in 2006), and bioengineering (from 59 in 1982 to 525 in 2006) (NSF/SRS 1993, 2009c). For information based on students' own reports of their research, see the sidebar "Interdisciplinary Dissertation Research."

S&E Master's Degrees

In some fields, such as engineering and geology, a master's degree is often the terminal degree for students. In other fields, master's degrees are a step toward doctoral degrees, and in certain others, master's degrees are awarded when students fail to advance to the doctoral level. Professional master's degree programs, which stress interdisciplinary training, are a relatively new direction in graduate education. (See sidebar "Professional Science Master's Degrees.")

Master's degrees in S&E fields increased from 86,400 in 1993 to 121,000 in 2006 before dropping slightly in 2007 (appendix table 2-26 ). Increases occurred in most major science fields. Master's degrees in engineering and computer sciences have dropped since 2004 (figure 2-11 ).

Master's Degrees by Sex
The number of S&E master's degrees earned by women rose from about 31,000 in 1993 to about 54,900 in 2007 (figure 2-12 ). The number of master's degrees earned by men grew more slowly, from about 55,500 in 1993 to about 65,400 in 2007, with most of the growth between 2002 and 2004. The number of S&E master's degrees earned by men declined between 2005 and 2007. As a result, the percentage of women earning master's degrees rose steadily during that time period. In 1993, women earned 36% of all S&E master's degrees; by 2007, they earned 46% (appendix table 2-26 ).

Women's share of S&E master's degrees varies by field. In 2007, women earned a majority of master's degrees in psychology (79%), biological sciences (60%), social sciences (56%), and agricultural sciences (55%). Women earned a small share of master's degrees in engineering, although their share in 2007 (23%) was higher than their share in 1993 (15%) (appendix table 2-26 ). The number of master's degrees awarded to women in most major S&E fields increased through 2005 but has flattened or declined since then.

Master's Degrees by Race/Ethnicity
The number of S&E master's degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased for all racial/ethnic groups between 1995 and 2007, although degrees to white students dropped from 1997 to 2002 before increasing again (figure 2-13 ; appendix table 2-27 ).[13]

The proportion of master's degrees in S&E fields earned by U.S. citizen and permanent resident racial and ethnic minorities increased over the past two decades. Asians/Pacific Islanders accounted for 8% of S&E master's degrees in 2007, up from 6% in 1995. Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives also registered gains during this period (from 4% to 7% for blacks, from 3% to 5% for Hispanics, and from 0.3% to 0.5% for American Indians/Alaska Natives). The percentage of S&E master's degrees earned by white students fell from 58% in 1995 to 49% in 2007 as the percentage of degrees earned by minorities and temporary residents increased (appendix table 2-27 ).

Master's Degrees by Citizenship
Foreign students make up a much higher proportion of S&E master's degree recipients than of bachelor's or associate's degree recipients. In 2007, foreign students earned 24% of S&E master's degrees. Their degrees are heavily concentrated in computer sciences and engineering, where they earned 39% and 38%, respectively, of all master's degrees awarded in 2007 (appendix table 2-27 ). Within engineering, students on temporary visas earned half of the master's degrees in electrical engineering.

S&E master's degrees awarded to students on temporary visas rose from approximately 22,200 in 1995 to about 35,500 in 2004, then declined to 28,700 in 2007. Most of the decline in recent years is accounted for by declines in computer sciences and engineering.

S&E Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral education in the United States prepares a new generation of faculty and researchers in academia, as well as a high-skilled workforce for other sectors of the economy. It also generates new knowledge important for the society as a whole and for U.S. competitiveness in a global knowledge-based economy.

After rising from the mid-1980s through 1998, the number of S&E doctorates conferred annually by U.S. universities declined through 2002 but increased in recent years, reaching a new peak of almost 41,000 in 2007 (NSB 2008; appendix table 2-28 ). The recent growth through 2007 occurred among both U.S. citizens/permanent residents and temporary residents. The largest increases were in engineering, biological/agricultural sciences, and medical/other life sciences (figure 2-14 ).

Time to Doctoral Degree Completion
The time required to earn a doctoral degree and the success rates of those entering doctoral programs are concerns for those pursuing a degree, the universities awarding the degree, and the agencies and organizations funding graduate study (NORC 2007). (See sidebar "Doctoral Completion and Attrition.") Time to degree (as measured by time from graduate school entry to doctorate receipt) increased through the mid-1990s but since then has decreased for S&E fields as a whole and for each field (appendix table 2-29 ). The physical sciences, mathematics, biological sciences, and engineering had the shortest time to degree, while the social sciences and medical/other life sciences had the longest. In 2007, the median time to doctorate receipt was 6.4 years in physical sciences, 6.9 years in mathematics and biological sciences, 7.0 years in engineering, 8.9 years in social sciences, and 9.7 years in medical/other life sciences. From 1995 to 2007, time to degree shortened in each of these fields. In science and engineering as a whole, median time to degree decreased from 8.0 to 7.2 years during this period.

Time to degree for doctorate recipients decreased in each of the Carnegie types of academic institutions awarding doctoral degrees from 1993 to 2007. (See sidebar "Carnegie Classification of Academic Institutions.") The majority of S&E doctorates are earned at research universities (i.e., doctorate-granting institutions with very high research activity). Time to degree is shortest at these universities: 7.0 years for 2007, down from 7.8 in 1993. Doctorate recipients at medical schools also finish quickly (7.1 years in 2007). Time to degree is longer at research universities with high research activity (7.9 years) and longest at doctoral/research universities (9.0 years) (table 2-4 ).

Doctoral Degrees by Sex
Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned by women has risen considerably since 1993, reaching a record high of 55% in 2007 (appendix table 2-28 ). During this period, women made gains in most major fields, but considerable differences by field continue. In 2007, women earned half or more of doctorates in non-S&E fields, in social/behavioral sciences, and in medical/other life sciences, but they earned considerably less than half of doctorates in physical sciences (31%), mathematics/computer sciences (26%), and engineering (23%) (appendix table 2-28). Although the percentages of degrees earned by women in physical sciences and engineering are low, they are substantially higher than in 1993 (23% and 13%, respectively).

The increase in the proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned by women resulted from both an increase in the number of women and a decrease in the number of men earning these degrees. The number of U.S. citizen and permanent resident women earning doctorates in S&E increased from 6,800 in 1993 to 15,000 in 2007 (appendix table 2-28 ). Meanwhile, the number of S&E doctorates earned by U.S. citizen or permanent resident men increased from 10,900 in 1993 to 12,300 in 2007. The increase in the number of S&E doctorates earned by women occurred in most major S&E fields. For example, the number of engineering doctorates earned by U.S. citizen and permanent resident women increased from approximately 300 in 1993 to 700 in 2007; biological sciences doctorates, from 1,300 to 2,300; physical sciences doctorates, from 600 to 700; and social/behavioral sciences doctorates, from 3,300 to 4,700. A decrease in the number of doctorates earned by men after the mid-1990s and through about 2002 to 2004 occurred in non-S&E fields as well as in engineering and in most science fields (except for biological sciences and medical/other life sciences). In recent years, the number of doctorates earned by U.S. citizen and permanent resident men increased in biological sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; computer sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; and engineering.

Doctoral Degrees by Race/Ethnicity
The number and proportion of doctoral degrees in S&E fields earned by U.S. citizen and permanent resident underrepresented minorities has also increased since 1995. Blacks earned 1,287, Hispanics earned 1,301, and American Indians/Alaska Natives earned 128 S&E doctorates in 2007, together accounting for 7% of all S&E doctoral degrees earned that year, up from 4% in 1995 (appendix table 2-30 ). Their share of S&E doctoral degrees earned by U.S. citizens and permanent residents rose from 6% to 10% in the same period. Gains by all groups contributed to this rise, although the number of S&E degrees earned by blacks and Hispanics rose considerably more than the number earned by American Indians/Alaska Natives (figure 2-15 ). Asian/Pacific Islander U.S. citizens and permanent residents earned 6% of all S&E doctorates in 2007, down from 7% in 1995. The number of S&E doctorates earned by white U.S. citizens and permanent residents declined from the mid-1990s to 2002, with most of the decrease among white men. The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by white U.S. citizen and permanent resident men declined in the late 1990s through 2003, then gradually increased (figure 2-16 ). The number of degrees earned by white U.S. citizen and permanent resident women dropped briefly in 1996 and has increased since then. As the number of S&E doctorates awarded to minorities and temporary residents increased, the proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned by white U.S. citizens and permanent residents decreased from 54% in 1995 to 49% in 2007 (appendix table 2-30).

Foreign S&E Doctorate Recipients
Temporary residents earned approximately 13,700 S&E doctorates in 2007, up from 8,700 in 1995. Foreign students on temporary visas earn a larger proportion of doctoral degrees than master's, bachelor's, or associate's degrees (appendix tables 2-11 , 2-13 , 2-27 , and 2-30 ). The temporary resident share of S&E doctorates rose from 31% in 1995 to 33% in 2007. Foreign students earn considerable shares of doctoral degrees in some fields. In 2007, foreign students on temporary visas earned half or more of doctoral degrees awarded in engineering, physics, mathematics, computer sciences, and economics. They earned considerably lower proportions of doctoral degrees in other S&E fields, for example, 30% in biological sciences, 8% in medical/other life sciences, and 5% in psychology (appendix table 2-30).

Countries/Economies of Origin
The top 10 foreign countries/economies of origin of foreign S&E doctorate recipients together accounted for 66% of all foreign recipients of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees from 1987 to 2007 (table 2-5 ). All but 3 of those top 10 countries are located in Asia. The major Asian countries/economies sending doctoral degree students to the United States have been, in descending order, China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Asia. From 1987 to 2007, students from four Asian countries/economies (China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan) earned more than half of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees awarded to foreign students (110,600 of 206,300), almost four times more than students from Europe (27,900). Most of these degrees were awarded in engineering, biological sciences, and physical sciences (table 2-6 ).

Students from China earned the largest number of U.S. S&E doctorates awarded to foreign students during the 1987–2007 period (50,200), followed by those from India (21,400), South Korea (20,500), and Taiwan (18,500) (table 2-6 ). The numbers of S&E doctorates earned by students from China and India dropped in the late 1990s but have been increasing since then (figure 2-17 ). Over the 20-year period, the number of S&E doctorates earned by Chinese nationals increased more than tenfold[14] and the number of S&E doctorates earned by students from India more than trebled. The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by South Korean students also dipped in the late 1990s and then rose, but the number of students did not rise as dramatically as those from China and India. In 1987, students from Taiwan earned more U.S. S&E doctoral degrees than students from China, India, or South Korea. However, as universities in Taiwan increased their capacity for advanced S&E education in the 1990s, the number of students from Taiwan earning S&E doctorates from U.S. universities declined.

Europe. European students earned far fewer U.S. S&E doctorates than Asian students between 1987 and 2007, and they tended to focus less on engineering than did their Asian counterparts (table 2-7 ). Western European countries whose students earned the largest number of U.S. S&E doctorates from 1987 to 2007 were Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, and France, in that order. From 1987 to 1993, Greece was the primary European country of origin; thereafter, its numbers of doctoral degree recipients declined. The numbers of U.S. S&E doctorate recipients from Italy and France generally increased over the past two decades. The number of U.S. S&E doctorate recipients from the United Kingdom fluctuated mainly between 100 and 150 over the period, and the number of doctorate recipients from Germany declined since 2000 (figure 2-18 ).

The number of Central and Eastern European students earning S&E doctorates at U.S. universities increased from 55 in 1987 to more than 800 in 2007 (about the same number as those from Western Europe) (figure 2-19 ). A higher proportion of Central and Eastern European U.S. doctorate recipients (88%) than of Western European doctorate recipients (73%) earned their doctorates in S&E fields, particularly in mathematics and physical sciences (table 2-7 ).

North America. The Canadian and Mexican shares of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees were small compared with those from Asia and Europe. The number of U.S. S&E degrees earned by students from Canada increased from about 200 in 1987 to more than 400 in 2007. The number of doctoral degree recipients from Mexico increased from 99 in 1987 to 187 in 2007 (figure 2-20 ). A higher proportion of Mexican than of Canadian U.S. doctoral degree recipients earned doctorates in science and engineering fields: 85% of Mexican and 64% of Canadian doctoral degree students in U.S. universities earned S&E doctorates (table 2-7 ). In particular, higher percentages of Mexican than of Canadian U.S. doctoral degrees were in engineering and agricultural sciences.

Stay Rates
Most foreign U.S. doctorate recipients plan to stay in the United States after graduation, and although the percentage of recipients staying is dropping, the number of recipients staying is increasing (figure 2-21 ). This section examines data on foreign S&E doctorate recipients' plans for staying in the United States at the time of doctorate receipt. Chapter 3 provides data based on examination of Social Security records on the percentage of foreign students with U.S. S&E doctorates who remain in the U.S. labor force up to 5 years after graduation.

At the time of doctorate receipt, more than three-quarters of foreign recipients of U.S. S&E doctorates plan to stay in the United States and about half have either accepted an offer of postdoctoral study or employment or are continuing employment in the United States (appendix table 2-31 ). Until the early 1990s, about half of foreign students who earned S&E degrees at U.S. universities reported that they planned to stay in the United States after graduation, and about one-third said they had firm offers for postdoctoral study or employment (NSB 1998). In the 1990s, however, these percentages increased substantially. For example, in the period 1996–99, 71% of foreign S&E doctoral degree recipients reported plans to remain in the United States after receiving their degree and 45% already had firm offers for postdoctoral study or employment. In the 2004–07 period, 77% of foreign doctoral recipients in S&E fields with known plans intended to stay in the United States and 51% had firm offers to do so (appendix table 2-31). Higher percentages of foreign doctorate recipients in physical sciences, biological and agricultural sciences, and mathematics/computer sciences, and lower percentages of foreign doctorate recipients in social/behavioral and health sciences reported definite plans to stay.

Stay rates vary by place of origin. In the period 2004–07, more than 90% of U.S. S&E doctoral recipients from China and 89% of those from India reported plans to stay in the United States, and more than half reported accepting firm offers for employment or postdoctoral research in the United States (appendix table 2-31 ). Doctorate recipients from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were less likely than those from China and India to stay in the United States (figure 2-22 ). Among U.S. S&E doctoral degree recipients from Europe, a relatively high percentage from the United Kingdom planned to stay, whereas smaller percentages from Greece and Spain (compared with other Western European countries) planned to stay after graduation. In North America, the percentage of 2004–07 doctoral degree students who had definite plans to stay in the United States was higher for Canada than for Mexico (appendix table 2-31).

Between 2000–03 and 2004–07, the percentage of U.S. S&E doctoral degree recipients from all of the top five countries/economies of origin (China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada) reporting definite plans to stay in the United States declined. However, for all but Taiwan, increases in the numbers of doctorate recipients more than offset declines in the percentage staying. Thus, the numbers of U.S. S&E doctoral degree recipients from Canada, China, India, and South Korea who had definite plans to stay in the United States were larger in the 2004–07 period than in the 2000–03 period (appendix table 2-31 ).


[10] Data for racial/ethnic groups are for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.
[11] See Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2009 (NSF/SRS 2009d) for more detail on enrollment of foreign students by sex.
[12] Clinical psychology programs and programs that emphasize professional practice (professional schools and Psy.D. programs) are associated with higher debt, but even in the more research-focused subfields of psychology, lower percentages of doctorate recipients were debt free and higher percentages had high levels of debt than those in other S&E fields. For information on debt levels of clinical versus nonclinical psychology doctorates in 1993–96, see "Psychology Doctorate Recipients: How Much Financial Debt at Graduation?" (NSF 00-321) at (accessed 12 June 2009).
[13] Data for racial/ethnic groups are for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.
[14] The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by students in Chinese universities continued to increase throughout this period, from 1,894 in 1993 to 22,953 in 2006.

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