higher ed

Useful Stats: Science & engineering graduate students and postdoctorates by state, 2016-2020

After declines in 2016 and 2017, the number of graduate students and postdoctoral appointees at the nation’s institutions of higher education increased nationally from 2018 to 2020, according to National Science Foundation (NSF) data from its Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) survey. However, this SSTI analysis shows considerable variation among the states over the five-year period from 2016 to 2020. Evaluating long-term trends in S&E graduate students and postdocs can help policymakers and program designers identify potential issues, enabling the development of more effective policies and programs.

‘Some College, No Credentials’ population rises to 39 million, report finds

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released the third report in its Some College, No Credentials (SCNC) series investigating the educational trajectory of U.S. adults who have left postsecondary education without receiving any credentials. This report addresses concerns about low student success rates across the nation and intends to identify opportunities where SCNC students can be encouraged to continue postsecondary programs and earn credentials. This edition features three new metrics for tracking SCNC students: re-enrollment, completion of the first credential, and perseverance indicated by continued enrollment after the first re-enrollment.

Public perceptions of science & technology and higher education explored in recent reports

Two recent studies explored public perceptions of science and technology and higher education in the United States. The first study from the NSF National Science Board explores public perceptions and awareness of science and technology among American adults, and a separate report from New America analyzes attitudes on higher education, with a particular interest in the transition to online instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent Research: Does merit aid help improve educational metrics for low-income students?

A recent study found that merit aid awards increased four-year bachelor’s degree completion rates for students – especially among students that were unlikely to pursue the four-year program in the absence of financial aid. A team of researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research assessed the marginal effects that merit aid from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (STBF) has on students attending public colleges in Nebraska. The research also showed that the projected lifetime earnings of the students outweighed the costs of funding merit aid for low-income, people of color, urban, and first-generation college students in Nebraska.

Useful Stats: Higher Ed R&D by state and funding source, 2011-2020

Continuing a streak lasting at least 10 years, the federal government was again the top funder of Higher Education R&D (HERD) in 2020. However, new SSTI analysis shows that the federal share of HERD funding has continued to decline nationally and in most states over the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020. This edition of SSTI’s Useful Stats provides an analysis of HERD funders by state in 2020, and an examination of 10-year trends for the period from 2011 to 2020 in HERD funding by source.

APLU report outlines steps for collaboration to advance US innovation

There is an opportunity to turbocharge U.S. innovation by addressing barriers to collaboration between research universities and industry, according to Sheila Martin, vice president of economic development and community engagement at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Details on the value universities can provide to industry in partnership are explained in APLU’s report, Driving U.S. Competitiveness Through Improved University-Industry Partnerships. It also includes policies lawmakers can take to foster stronger university-industry partnerships.

Useful Stats: 2020 Higher Ed R&D by state and research field

Building on previous SSTI analysis showing that Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) expenditures increased across the U.S. despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this edition of Useful Stats examines the distribution of R&D spending among the various fields of research at the nation’s colleges and universities. Specifically, this analysis examines 2020 HERD expenditures by state and field of research, finding that the life sciences continued to dominate academic R&D activity, accounting for 57.5 percent ($49.6 billion) of total HERD spending. Engineering was the second most funded research field in 2020, accounting for 15.9 percent ($13.7 billion) of the national total. The third most funded research field was physical sciences, accounting for 6.6 percent ($5.7 billion) of total U.S. HERD expenditures.

Useful Stats: 2020 Higher Ed R&D intensity by state

As total Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) expenditures increased nationally and in most states from 2019 to 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession, HERD intensity also increased. HERD intensity is an indicator of the relative importance of R&D spending by colleges and universities to regional economies, and is calculated as HERD expenditures as a percentage of total gross domestic product (GDP). This edition of Useful Stats expands on previous SSTI analysis of total HERD expenditures in 2020 (the most recent figures available), specifically examining HERD intensity by state for the five-year period from 2016 to 2020.

Kansas playing the long game in building economic prosperity

A “fire breathing economic development initiative” is unfolding at Kansas State University, and if it succeeds, it could add 3,000 jobs and $3 billion in new, outside investment to the state in the next 10 years.

Report finds lack of women in leadership positions in higher education

Women in academia are underrepresented in leadership positions at the 130 universities ranked as R1 (the highest level of research activity by the Carnegie Classification), a recent report done by the Eos Foundation’s Women’s Power Gap (WPG) Initiative found. The report found that women make up 55 percent of all PhD earners, but just 22 percent of all the presidents and 10 percent of system presidents of R1 universities as of September 2021. The study also found that 46 percent of the universities in the study had never had a woman leader.  


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