Graduate Enrollment and Completion Trends Over the Past Year and Decade

November 10, 2021

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Title: Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2010-2020

Authors: Enyu Zhou and Janet Gao

Source: Council of Graduate Schools

To understand the impact of the pandemic on graduate education, a recently released report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) examines enrollment and completion trends between Fall 2019 and 2020. Co-sponsored by the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), CGS conducted the annual Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees with 558 institutions participating. The report also includes five- and ten-year trends in graduate education. Findings from the analysis are summarized below:

  • Applications for graduate admission rose by 7.3 percent compared to the previous academic year. Applications for graduate school admission grew at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent over the last ten years (2010-20).
  • Total enrollment for Fall 2020 was primarily driven by domestic students (an increase of 6.1 percent). In total, there were over 1.7 million students enrolled in graduate education in Fall 2020 (at the institutions participating in the survey), of which 43.4 percent were enrolled part-time.
  • First-time enrollment increased by 1.8 percent between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Business (16 percent), biological and agricultural sciences (9.1 percent), and health sciences (8 percent) were the fields of study with the largest enrollment increases, while mathematics (decrease of 16.6 percent) and computer science and engineering (decrease of 15.8 percent) saw the largest enrollment drops.
  • Graduate enrollment among underrepresented students increased compared to the previous year with enrollment gains among Latinx students (20.4 percent), Black/African American students (16 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (8.8 percent).
  • Given the pandemic’s impact on travel restrictions, the authors note that first-time international student enrollment had decreased substantially (12.6 percent) compared to the previous academic year (20.0 percent). First-time international student enrollment was highest among private, not-for-profit (17.9 percent) and R1 (18.2 percent) institutions. The ten-year average annual change rate for international student graduate enrollment was negative (-0.8 percent) for the first time in five years.
  • In terms of degree and certificate completion, there were over 659,000 graduate degrees and certificates awarded by participating institutions during the 2019-20 academic year. Of those, 80.8 percent were master’s degrees, 11.5 percent were doctoral degrees, and 7.7 percent were certificates.

Click here to read the full report.

—Danielle Melidona

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