higher ed

Useful Stats: Undergraduate enrollment below pre-pandemic levels in 43 states, grad enrollment up in 33 states

Total postsecondary enrollment is down 5% from fall 2019 to fall 2023 due to a 6% drop in undergraduate students. While undergraduates are down, graduate students have surpassed pre-pandemic enrollment numbers by 4%. Enrollments in undergraduate and graduate certificates are up significantly from pre-pandemic values (16% and 21%), while enrollment in associate degrees are down more than any other undergraduate credential (-14%). Continue reading for a national and state-level analysis of the recently released fall 2023 enrollment estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (Clearinghouse).

Useful Stats: 40+ year trends in postgraduate science, engineering, and health

The number of graduate students in science, engineering, and health has grown from approximately 328,000 to 760,000 from 1975 to 2021, a 132% increase, according to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS). When compared to a 60% increase (from 9.7 to 15.4 million) in total undergraduate enrollment across all fields of study over the same time period, the scale of growth can be better seen. However, while the number of graduate students in science has seen an upward trend over the 46-year period, the number of graduate students in engineering has stagnated since 2014.

Useful Stats: Higher Education R&D by State and Institution

The United States is home to some of the world's most prestigious universities, each performing critical research that helps advance the country’s innovation economy. However, these universities are not evenly distributed across the country; many are concentrated within large cities in states where their spillover further impacts the local economies.

Useful Stats: HERD expenditures by R&D field and source of funds

Research and Development (R&D) is an essential component of innovation and economic growth, where higher education institutions play a key role. However, with these institutions being responsible for funding just a quarter of all HERD expenditures, it is important to see the influence of outside funding sources on the fields of R&D. For example, Health and Human Services (HHS) has long been the largest contributor of funding into higher education R&D, which is reflected in life sciences being the R&D field with the most significant funding levels.

Useful Stats: Higher Education R&D expenditures near $100 billion in FY 2022

Institutions of higher education spent $97.8 billion on research and development (R&D) activities in fiscal year (FY) 2022, an increase of nearly 9% over the prior year’s $89.8 billion. Over the past decade of available data, from FY 2013-2022, higher education R&D expenditures have increased 46%, from $67.1 to $97.8 billion. However, when adjusted for inflation, the growth is more modest at 17%.

Restrictions on academic majors disproportionately hurt underrepresented minority groups

Restrictions placed on registering for high-wage-potential academic majors have had an increasingly disproportionate adverse effect on students from underrepresented minority groups (URM: Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native), according to research from the Bookings Institution.

Should job outcomes be the bottom line for higher education?

In Mississippi, the state auditor released a report  in September 2023 that rated academic degrees by whether the degree would lead to a well-paying job. He suggests that Mississippi invest more in programs in the subject areas leading to those high-paying, in-state jobs. Basing appropriations on immediate wage outcomes implies that near-term economic return is the only benefit that matters, and it is a theme that is recurring frequently. In contrast, liberal arts advocates take a more holistic view of the value of higher education.

Ivy-Plus Schools could be perpetuating economic inequality

Less than half of one percent of Americans attend Ivy-Plus colleges, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Yet these twelve colleges account for more than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs, a quarter of U.S. Senators, half of all Rhodes scholars, and three-fourths of Supreme Court justices appointed in the last half-century.

Has the U.S. lost its luster in the eyes of international students?

The United States has been the top destination for those looking to study abroad for decades. Before the onset of the pandemic, over a million students flocked from abroad to attend U.S.-based universities. Now, having dropped by 15% at the onset of the pandemic, international student enrollment is beginning to recover. Despite this recovery, the U.S. is losing market share to countries like Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom resulting in negative economic consequences.

Supreme Court rules against Affirmative Action

Today, the Supreme Court ended Affirmative Action on college campuses. The syllabus (headnote) to the decision stated: “Because Harvard's and UNC's admissions programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points, those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause.”


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