Science Resources Studies Division
DATA BRIEF Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
Vol. 1997 No.1, February 7, 1997

Graduate Enrollment Drops for the Second Year in a Row

By Joan S.

Enrollment of non-US citizens dropped almost 4 percent in 1995.

The number of science and engineering (S&E) graduate students in United States universities dropped 2 percent from 1994 to 1995, the second drop in 2 years (see chart 1). Enrollment decreased among both full-time and part-time students. The number of full-time S&E graduate students who enrolled for the first time dropped 4 percent in 1995. First-time enrollment dropped in each year since 1992, indicating likely future decreases in total enrollment.

The number of non-US citizen [1] S&E graduate students declined since 1992 and dropped almost 4 percent in 1995. Non-US citizens comprised 23 percent of graduate S&E enrollment in 1995-down from a peak of 26 percent in 1991. The number of US citizen and permanent visa graduate students in S&E also decreased by 1 percent in 1995. Among graduate students with US citizenship or permanent visas, 18 percent were members of minority groups: 6 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic, 0.4 percent American Indian, and 8 percent Asian. The number of black, Hispanic, and American Indian graduate students in S&E has gradually increased over the years. In 1995, enrollment of blacks rose 4 percent; American Indians, 10 percent; and Hispanics, 6 percent. Enrollment of Asians with US citizenship or permanent visas decreased 2 percent.

Although the number of men enrolled in graduate S&E programs fell 3 percent in 1995, the number of women rose 1 percent. As a result of women's rising enrollment and men's falling enrollment, women's share of graduate S&E enrollment increased to 38 percent. Differences in enrollment trends for men and women are due largely to differences in S&E fields. Women comprise approximately half of enrollment in biological sciences and social sciences, fields in which total enrollment is stable or increasing. Men are concentrated in fields in which total enrollment is decreasing (e.g. mathematical and computer sciences; engineering; physical sciences; and earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences).

The number of students enrolled in social sciences in 1995 remained essentially the same as in 1994, while enrollment in agricultural sciences grew 2 percent and enrollment in biological sciences grew 1 percent. Enrollment in all other major S&E fields was down (see table 1). The largest decreases were in physics (down 6 percent), mathematical sciences (down 6 percent), and engineering (down 5 percent). The rate of decline in some fields of engineering was even greater-enrollment in mechanical engineering dropped almost 8 percent, enrollment in nuclear engineering dropped 7 percent, and enrollment in mining engineering dropped 12 percent. First-time enrollment dropped in all major fields, with the exception of computer science. Decreases were greatest in physical sciences, mathematical sciences, and engineering.

In contrast to graduate enrollment, the number of postdoctoral fellows in science and engineering rose 1 percent in 1995 to 25,995. Although the total number of postdoctoral fellows in science and engineering rose steadily since 1982 and the number in some fields continued to increase in 1995, in other fields (chemistry, physics, agricultural sciences, and social sciences), the number declined in 1995.

The data presented in this Data Brief were obtained from the 1995 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Data were collected from approximately 11,600 departments at 602 institutions of higher education. The departmental response rate was 98.6 percent; however, 15 percent of the departments required partial imputation for missing data. More detailed data are available in the forthcoming report, Selected Data on Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 1995.

This Data Brief was prepared by:

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

For free printed copies of SRS publications, write to the above address, call 703-306-1773, or send e-mail to

[1] on temporary visas

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