The Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) is an annual census of all U.S. academic institutions granting research-based master's degrees or doctorates in science, engineering, and selected health (SEH) fields. The survey, sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the National Institutes of Health, collects the total number of graduate students, postdoctoral appointees (postdocs), and doctorate-level nonfaculty researchers (NFRs) by demographic characteristics, fields of discipline, and sources of financial support. Results are used to assess shifts in graduate enrollment and postdoc appointments, as well as trends in financial support.

In 2010 NCSES conducted a comprehensive frame evaluation for the GSS. The study found 605 potentially eligible postsecondary academic institutions in the United States that were not previously surveyed in the GSS. NCSES in 2011 conducted an eligibility screening survey of these institutions and identified 165 offering at least one master's- or doctorate-granting program in SEH. (See appendix A for more information).

After assessing the 2011 data reported by the newly identified institutions, NCSES decided more years of data were needed to verify the degree program eligibility and to work with the new institutions to improve their data reporting. Over the 2012 and 2013 survey cycles, 25 of the 165 newly identified institutions were confirmed as ineligible for the GSS and 140 confirmed as eligible.[3] The data from these institutions will be incorporated into the published GSS data beginning with the 2014 data release. In this special report, these 140 institutions are referred to as the new frame institutions, while the previously eligible institutions are designated as core institutions.

The eligibility of core institutions was also reviewed as part of this frame or coverage evaluation, and two for-profit core institutions offering mostly practitioner-oriented graduate degrees were determined to be ineligible.[4]

The analyses in this special report are primarily based on the 2013 GSS data, though several analyses use trend data from 1972 to 2013 to show the estimated impact of the survey frame changes on longer-term trends. This report begins with an examination of the differences in institutional and graduate student characteristics by new frame and core institution status, with a focus on the percentage point change in the estimates resulting from the inclusion of the new frame institutions. Additional analyses focus on the clustering of new frame institution students within a few disciplines and how total estimates of graduate students, postdocs, and NFRs will change when new frame institution data are included in the 2014 GSS and beyond. Field-level and demographic differences between graduate students enrolled in eligible SEH units (academic departments, programs, research centers, or health care facilities) at new frame and core institutions are also examined. This is followed by an analysis concerning the removal of the two for-profit institutions from the frame. The final section highlights the overall changes and new composition of the GSS data.


[3] See "New institution eligibility screening for the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Methodology Report."

[4] These institutions are hereafter referred to as for-profit institutions.