1. 1 Whether an institution is operated by publicly elected or appointed officials, or by privately elected or appointed officials and derives its major source of funds from private sources, is referred to as its control.

  2. 2 Most data on institutions and some data on degrees used in this report come from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which includes completions data for degrees (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral), as well as certificates below (fewer than 1 academic year, at least 1 but fewer than 2 academic years, and at least 3 but fewer than 4 academic years) and above (postbaccalaureate and post-master’s) the bachelor’s level.

  3. 3 The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is available at The Basic Carnegie classification categorizes academic institutions primarily based on highest degree conferred, level of degree production, and research activity. This report uses the 2015 Carnegie classification.

  4. 4 Graduates from many different types of institutions go on to earn S&E doctoral degrees (Burrelli and Rapoport 2008; Fiegener and Proudfoot 2013).

  5. 5 For a list of all types and how they are designated, see NASEM 2019: Table 3-1 and 3-2.

  6. 6 The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” In 2015–16, 102 HBCUs were in operation in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Half were public institutions, and half were private nonprofit.

  7. 7 The number of HHEs more than doubled from 189 in 1994 to 432 in 2015. About 300 institutions enroll between 15% and 24% Hispanic students and are considered “emerging HHEs.” Many researchers use high-Hispanic enrollment and Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) interchangeably. HSIs meet a federally designated criterion (i.e., public and private nonprofit institutions whose undergraduate, full-time equivalent student enrollment is at least 25% Hispanic) and are eligible to apply for Hispanic-serving institution status. Because there is no information on whether institutions apply for the HSI designation, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) uses the 25% enrollment criterion to determine which institutions have high Hispanic enrollment. For additional information, see

  8. 8 For information on S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded by tribal colleges and universities to American Indian or Alaska Native students, see NCSES WMPD 2019: Table 5-10.

  9. 9 This analysis is based on a custom data tabulation from the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

  10. 10 A recent trend among states is to allow more community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. See Fulton (2015) for more information.

  11. 11 These figures come from the 2017 National Survey of College Graduates, accessed using the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System:

  12. 12 These figures are for U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning S&E doctoral degrees. The percentages for students on temporary visas are lower (NCSES SED 2017: Table 30), likely reflecting that many foreign students come to the United States specifically for graduate training.

  13. 13 Data are from IPEDS.

  14. 14 Most of the remainder, 18%, were in “other social sciences.”

  15. 15 Information on the history of distance and correspondence and online education may be found in Harasim (2000).

  16. 16 No standard guideline exists that specifies how much education must be delivered via technology to qualify as online or distance education (Miller et al. 2017). IPEDS defines distance education as “education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.” Distance education courses are courses “in which the instructional content is delivered exclusively via distance education.” Distance education programs are those “for which all the required coursework for program completion is able to be completed via distance education courses.” For more detail, see

  17. 17 This analysis is based on 2016 IPEDS data.

  18. 18 This is for doctoral degrees-research/scholarship only. Medical and health sciences distance education programs are prevalent at all degree levels but are only included in S&E at the doctoral level. This analysis is based on 2017 IPEDS data.

  19. 19 Published price is “the price institutions charge for tuition and fees, as well as room and board, in the case of students residing on campus” (College Board 2018a).

  20. 20 Tuition and fee figures represent charges to full-time first-year undergraduate students over the course of a 9-month academic year of 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours. Average tuition and fee prices reflect in-district charges for public 2-year institutions and in-state charges for public 4-year institutions. In addition to tuition and fees, room and board constitutes another expense for students.

  21. 21 Limited data on the residence and migration of first-time freshmen are available from IPEDS.

  22. 22 Note that these debt figures are for degree recipients only. Students who have taken on debt but left without earning a degree are not included.

  23. 23 For public institutions, data were not available for Connecticut, the District of Columbia, or North Dakota. For private nonprofit institutions, data were not available for Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, or Wyoming.

  24. 24 This report discusses sources and mechanisms of graduate student funding. Funding sources include federal, institutional, and personal or self-support, among others. Funding mechanisms include assistantships, fellowships, and traineeships, among others.

  25. 25 Starting with 2017, the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) collects data separately for master’s and doctoral students. Analyses using GSS data in this report include health fields.

  26. 26 Personal sources include loans (including federal loans) or personal or family financial contributions. Note that there may be some differences between numbers reported in Arbeit and colleagues (2019) and those reported here because different fields are included in some analyses.

  27. 27 In 2017, these were the most common funding mechanisms for S&E doctoral students (37% received RAs, 27% TAs, and 15% fellowships) (NCSES GSS 2017: Table 3-5).

  28. 28 Tabulations from the 2016 GSS were created using the NCSES interactive data tool.

  29. 29 At the time of doctoral degree conferral, 44% of 2017 doctorate recipients held debt related to their undergraduate or graduate education, or both (NCSES SED 2017: Table 38).

  30. 30 A recent analysis, however, concluded that underrepresented minority status mattered to debt levels even after accounting for educational and other factors (Schacht et al. in preparation).

  31. 31 Sources used by the College Board are available at Note that this section reflects information for all students, not just those studying S&E fields.

  32. 32 The remainder includes veterans’ benefits, education tax benefits, and work-study programs and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.

  33. 33 This ranges from less than 60% for NIH to more than 97% for USDA.

  34. 34 Tabulations of the 2016 GSS were created using the NCSES interactive data tool.

  35. 35 Occupational outcomes of graduates are covered in the forthcoming Science and Engineering Indicators 2020 report “Science and Engineering Labor Force.” In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has produced a visualization mapping college majors and occupation groups, which can be broken out by a student’s field of study and demographic characteristics:

  36. 36 Van Noy and Zeidenberg (2014) distinguish between “S&E” and “technician” programs at community colleges. S&E programs tend to prepare students for occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. Technician programs tend to prepare students for occupations requiring associate’s degrees or certificates (although some go on to bachelor’s degrees or higher). Relative to those in “technician” programs, a higher proportion of students in S&E programs seek to transfer to 4-year institutions, and fewer of them seek associate’s degrees or certificates.

  37. 37 The total number of bachelor’s degrees conferred annually by U.S. universities and colleges in all fields increased from fewer than 1.3 million in 2000 to nearly 2 million in 2017.

  38. 38 For more information, see

  39. 39 Other sources of limited information on attainment and retention exist. For example, the Department of Education collects data on outcomes for students who enroll in 2-year and 4-year institutions: In addition, the National Student Clearinghouse provides snapshots of student enrollment and completion:

  40. 40 In 2017, 695 U.S. institutions enrolled graduate students, including 678 enrolling master’s students and 399 enrolling doctoral students (NCSES GSS 2017: Table 4-5).

  41. 41 The Survey of Earned Doctorates also collects information on interdisciplinary doctoral degrees. Analysis of some of these data is available in Millar and Dillman (2012).

  42. 42 Public universities awarded particularly high percentages of doctorates in the agricultural sciences (94%, which may reflect land-grant status; see and in atmospheric sciences (86%).

  43. 43 For the demographic trends presented in this section, unless otherwise noted, racial and ethnic group totals are compared with totals for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. For sex, the comparison is with totals across all citizenships.

  44. 44 This report refers to racial and ethnic groups following the standards for collection of data on race and ethnicity announced by the Office of Management and Budget in 1997, as described in To facilitate ease of reading, the report sometimes adopts a shorthand when referring to specific groups (e.g., “black” for “black or African American,” “Hispanic” for “Hispanic or Latino”). Additionally, the category “Asian or Pacific Islander” was replaced in 2011 with the separate categories “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.” When trends for “Asians” are discussed, they include “Asian or Pacific Islander” before 2011 and “Asian” from 2011 on.

  45. 45 Limited data about S&E degree attainment of another group, military veterans, is available in Milan (2018).

  46. 46 Trends in master’s degrees earned by sex broadly mirror those of bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in growth over time and differences between fields in the proportion of degrees earned by women.

  47. 47 Some changes by race and ethnicity over time may reflect the way the National Center for Education Statistics and other federal statistical agencies collect information on this topic. Beginning in 2011, some students may be classified as multiracial; in the past, they may have been reported as American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, or white. In 2017, 7.5% of bachelor’s degree recipients were students of more than one race or other or unknown race or ethnicity.

  48. 48 Trends in master’s degrees awarded across racial and ethnic groups resemble those found in the data on bachelor’s degree awards.

  49. 49 In addition to Table S2-12, NCSES WMPD 2019 provides data on degree awards by field that allow race, ethnicity, and sex to be disaggregated. For associate’s degrees, see NCSES WMPD 2019: Table 4-3. For bachelor’s degrees, see WMPD 2019: Table 5-7. For master’s degrees, see WMPD 2019: Table 6-4 and 6-5. For doctoral degrees, see WMPD 2019: Table 7-8.

  50. 50 There may be a time lag between patterns observed in enrollment data and those observed in degree data. Degrees take several years to earn, and not all enrolled students earn degrees.

  51. 51 Data in this section come from the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which collects administrative data, including numbers of international students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. Data include students enrolled in associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs whose status is listed as “active” in the SEVIS database on 15 November of each year. Those participating in optional practical training (OPT) are excluded. Data on OPT students are provided by the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors report, which constitutes another valuable source of information on international students in the United States and related topics.

  52. 52 This finding is generally consistent with the Institute of International Education’s Fall 2018 International Student Enrollment Hot Topics Survey, which noted a 1.7% decline in 2018 enrollments below 2017 levels in the 540 institutions surveyed:

  53. 53 India’s numbers rose by about 4% from 2016 to 2017 and remained essentially the same in 2018. China’s numbers declined by 11%. South Korea saw a 16% decline (to 2,300), and Saudi Arabia saw a decline of 37% (to 7,000).

  54. 54 Other surveys also indicate declines during this period, particularly in first-time enrollment (Institute of International Education 2018; NCSES GSS 2017; Okahana and Zhou 2018, 2019).

  55. 55 Between 2009 and 2017, the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning bachelor’s degrees increased from about 1.6 million to 1.9 million (by about 20%). In 2017, around one-third of bachelor’s degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents were in S&E fields.

  56. 56 During this interval, the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning master’s degrees remained essentially flat (between 650,000 and 670,000).

  57. 57 During the same time, the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning S&E doctorates increased from about 27,500 to about 30,000.

  58. 58 More information on how international students, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, are funded is available from the Institute of International Education:

  59. 59 These data are based on the 2011 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and are not comparable with data presented in earlier volumes of S&E Indicators based on ISCED 1997. Data are based on national labor force surveys and are subject to sampling error; therefore, small differences among countries may not be meaningful (OECD 2018a).

  60. 60 For more information, see

  61. 61 The international degree data presented in this report were obtained largely from OECD’s statistical database, OECD.Stat. For a few countries not available from OECD, as noted in the Supplemental Tables, data were obtained from Eurostat or from country-specific sources. Because of changes in the International Standard Classification of Education (more information about which is available in, data from 2000 to 2012 may not be strictly comparable with data from 2013 and subsequent years. Caution is warranted in interpreting time trends across this interval. For consistency and comparability, U.S. data as reported by OECD were used and may differ from U.S. data presented in other sections of this report. More detailed methodology notes on international first university degrees and international doctoral degree data are available in the Technical Appendix.

  62. 62 For international degree comparisons between the United States and other countries, this report uses data as reported to OECD, which may differ from IPEDS.

  63. 63 These countries are The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, and Spain.

  64. 64 Time trend data for India are lacking. Additionally, India may combine International Standard Classification of Education levels 5 (associate’s-level degrees) and 6 (bachelor’s-level degrees) in its reporting, making comparisons with other countries difficult.

  65. 65 For international degree comparisons between the United States and other countries, this report uses data as reported to OECD, which may differ from IPEDS. Additionally, for international degree comparisons, S&E does not include medical or other health fields because international sources cannot separate the MD degrees from degrees in the health fields, and the MDs are professional or practitioner degrees, not research degrees.

  66. 66 These countries are Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, and Sweden.

  67. 67 In 2017, 34% of U.S. S&E doctorates were earned by students on temporary visas, according to IPEDS. Equivalent data are not available from OECD.

  68. 68 Higher education institutions have also opened increasing numbers of campuses in other countries. Data on international branch campuses is maintained by the Cross-Border Education Research Team (, and the most recent available data were reviewed in Indicators 2018: Chapter 2.

  69. 69 Data on internationally mobile students come from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics. More information on the data is available at Project Atlas from the Institute of International Education is another valuable resource on international student mobility, including trends in U.S. students who earn degrees abroad (

  70. 70 For data on U.S. students studying abroad, see Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report.

  71. 71 See Project Atlas from the Institute of International Education:

  72. 72 See Numbers reported by other sources, for instance, for Canada (available at, may differ from those in Figure 2-23, which are from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS). One possible reason for the discrepancy is that UIS data cover students who pursue higher education degrees outside their country of origin and do not include students who are under short-term for-credit study and exchange programs that last less than a full academic year. For more information, see