Graduate Admission Trends in the U.S. Colleges and Top M.S. Programs with Largest Enrollment Growth Among Men and Women
More than 1.78 million graduate students were enrolled in graduate certificate, education specialist, master’s, or research doctoral programs at U.S. graduate schools in Fall 2015, according to institutions responding to the 2015 CGS/GRE.
Colleges received a record 2.18 million applications for admission to graduate programs for study beginning in Fall 2015. U.S. college are segmented as Public colleges or private colleges. Public colleges are funded by the state government and include institutions scuh as Univ. of Texas, Univ. of California, Univ. of Washington etc. and Private institutitions such as Satnford, MIT, Duke, Columbia etc. Public institutions received more than 1.3 million applications for Fall 2015, while private, not-forprofit institutions received nearly 834, 000 graduate applications for Fall 2015. Acceptance rates for doctoral programs have traditionally been lower than acceptance rates for master’s/other programs, and results from the 2015 survey were generally consistent with this trend in graduate education. Overall, 21.9% of doctoral applicants and 48.2% of master’s/other applicants were accepted for admission. Private, not-for-profit institutions were generally more selective in terms of acceptance rates than public institutions. Doctoral programs at private, not-for-profit research universities with very high research activity (RU/ VH) were most competitive with acceptance rates
By broad field of study, the largest number of total applications for Fall 2015 were in engineering (321, 521), business (267, 433), and health sciences (266, 228). Engineering, business, and health sciences accounted for 39.3% of all graduate applications for which the broad field of study was known. Among doctoral applicants only, social and behavioral sciences was the largest broad field, accounting for 122, 702, or 18.7%, of all doctoral applications. The broad field of social and behavioral sciences (14.7%) was also the second most competitive field in terms of acceptance rates, trailing only business (13.4%). Business received the largest number of applications at the master’s/ other level (245, 262), closely followed by engineering (222, 886). In terms of master’s acceptance rates, mathematics and computer sciences (37.3%) was most competitive, followed by arts and humanities (39.6%), health sciences (39.8%), engineering (40.0%), and physical and earth sciences (40.6%).
Consistent with previous surveys, business (79, 010), education (77, 342), and health sciences (63, 309) were the three largest broad fields of study in Fall 2015, in terms of first-time graduate enrollment. These three broad fields collectively represented 43.3% of first-time graduate enrollments. Institutions responding to the survey also reported that while women constitute roughly threequarters of first-time graduate enrollment in the fields of public administration and services (77.8%), health sciences (77.4%), and education (75.0%) in Fall 2015, they comprised much smaller portions of first-time enrollment in the fields of engineering (25.1%), mathematics and computer sciences (32.9%), and physical and earth sciences (39.0%).
Engineering, Math and Computer Science programs had more male enrollees and programs such as Education & health Sciences had more of female students. This is consistent to what you see in the workforce.
Consistent with past surveys, U.S. citizens and permanent residents constituted the majority of first-time graduate enrollments. Specifically among first-time graduate enrollees for whom citizenship was known, in Fall 2015 , 78.0% were U.S. citizens and permanent residents and 22.0% were temporary residents. The share of temporary residents among first-time graduate students was higher at private, not-for-profit universities (24.5%) than at public universities (21.4%). The share of temporary residents among full-time graduate students was the highest at research universities with very high.
International students enrolled in programs such as Engineering, Math, Computer Science and Business. This is again consistent with historical data as it is easier for International students to get jobs after post graduation.
By field of study, health sciences accounted for the largest number of doctoral degrees awarded in 2014-15, with 18.4% of the total, followed by engineering (14.0%), education (13.1%), social and behavioral sciences (12.9%), and biological and agricultural sciences (12.2%). At the master’s degree level, business and education were the largest broad fields of degrees awarded, accounting for 21.3% and 20.1% respectively. While over one-third of degree recipients in biological and agricultural sciences (33.2%) and physical and earth sciences (41.6%) were awarded doctoral degrees, more than nine out of ten degree recipients in business (94.5%) and public administration and services (95.8%) were awarded master’s degrees. Of the broad fields in this report, ‘other’ fields (9.6%) and education fields (8.9%) had the highest ratios of certificates awarded among all degrees conferred in 2014-15
By broad field of study, the largest one-year change in graduate applications occurred in mathematics and computer sciences (9.4%) and other fields (2.1%). There were no changes in graduate applications within business (0.0%). Graduate applications decreased over the one-year period in most broad fields, including physical and earth sciences (-3.1%), arts and humanities (-2.8%), health sciences (-1.9%), social and behavioral sciences (-1.3%), public administration and services (-0.9%), and education (-0.9%) (Table C.2). While the decline of graduate applications in arts and humanities appears to follow the trend over the last five years, the declines in physical and earth sciences and health sciences appear to be a deviation from recent trends. Similarly, one-year rates of change in application counts shifted drastically between Fall 2013/14 and Fall 2014/15 for mathematics and computer sciences (22.0% and 9.4%), engineering (10.5% and -0.7%), and health sciences (9.2% and -1.9%).
NOTABLE: First-time International Graduate Enrollment Growth Slows Down. The 5.7% increase in first-time international graduate enrollment between Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 was considerably lower than recent years. For example, first-time international graduate student enrollment increased 11.2% between Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 (Allum & Okahana, 2015) and 11.5% between Fall 2012 and Fall 2013 (Allum, 2014). This slower rate of growth mirrors findings from the CGS 2015 International Graduate Admissions Survey: Preliminary Applications, which recorded a 5% increase in first-time international graduate student enrollment between Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 (Okahana & Allum, 2015). Though the rate of growth has slowed, more than one out of five first-time graduate students (22%) are international students. However, declines in the enrollment growth rates of international graduate students in engineering and mathematics & computer sciences were particularly notable. As shown in Figure 9, the one-year change in first-time graduate enrollment among international graduate students in these two fields dropped substantially after robust growth was reported over the last five years. It remains to be seen if this is an anomaly or the beginning of a new normal in the first-time graduate enrollment of international students. Thus, these two fields will be closely monitored in future surveys.
Consistent with past surveys, U.S. citizens and permanent residents constituted the majority of first-time graduate enrollments. Specifically among first-time graduate enrollees for whom citizenship was known, in Fall 2015 , 78.0% were U.S. citizens and permanent residents and 22.0% were temporary residents. The share of temporary residents among first-time graduate students was higher at private, not-for-profit universities (24.5%) than at public universities (21.4%). The share of temporary residents among full-time graduate students was the highest at research universities with very high research activity (RU/VH) with 30.4% (Table B.8). Temporary residents comprised the largest share of first-time graduate students in mathematics and computer sciences (63.2%) followed closely by engineering (58.5%). The share of temporary residents was smallest in public administration and services (4.3%), education (4.3%), and health sciences (5.5%) (Table B.9 and Figure 4). While 61.4% of first-time graduate enrollees who were U.S. citizens and permanent residents were women, 42.0% of first-time graduate enrollees who were temporary residents were women.
Author: Ajay Singh
Ajay is the co-founder of Stoodnt and spent 20+ years in senior leadership roles with companies such as American Express, Cendant and Intel prior to starting Stoodnt. He has a M.B.A. from Harvard, M.S. in Computer Engineering from U.T. Austin and B.Tech from I.I.T Roorkee (India).
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