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Indicators

Postbaccalaureate Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2016)

Total enrollment in postbaccalaureate degree programs was 2.9 million students in fall 2014. Between 2014 and 2025, postbaccalaureate enrollment is projected to increase by 21 percent, to 3.5 million students.

In fall 2014, some 2.9 million students were enrolled in postbaccalaureate degree programs. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Postbaccalaureate enrollment increased by 36 percent between 2000 and 2010. More recently, the pattern of enrollment in postbaccalaureate degree programs has changed; postbaccalaureate enrollment was 1 percent lower in 2014 than in 2010. Between 2014 and 2025, postbaccalaureate enrollment is projected to increase by 21 percent, to 3.5 million students.


Figure 1. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2000–2025

Figure 1. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2000–2025


NOTE: Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Projections are based on data through 2014. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions Projection Model, 1980 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.80.


In fall 2014, female students made up 58 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment, at 1.7 million, and male students made up 42 percent, at 1.2 million. Female enrollment has generally increased at a faster rate than male enrollment since 2000. For example, between 2000 and 2010, female enrollment increased by 42 percent, while male enrollment increased by 28 percent. However, female enrollment was 1 percent lower in 2014 than in 2010, while male enrollment was less than 1 percent higher in 2014 than in 2010. Between 2014 and 2025, male enrollment is projected to increase by 24 percent, from 1.2 million to 1.5 million students, while female enrollment is projected to increase by 19 percent, from 1.7 million to 2.0 million students.


Figure 2. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2000–2014

Figure 2. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2000–2014


NOTE: Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Prior to 2010, separate data on Asian and Pacific Islander students were not available. Data include unclassified graduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 306.10.


Of the 2.9 million postbaccalaureate students enrolled in fall 2014, some 1,656,000 were White, 366,000 were Black, 230,000 were Hispanic, 191,000 were Asian, 14,000 were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 7,000 were Pacific Islander. Between 2000 and 2014, both Black and Hispanic enrollment more than doubled, with Black enrollment increasing from 181,000 to 366,000 students and Hispanic enrollment increasing from 111,000 to 230,000 students. White enrollment was 12 percent higher in 2014 than in 2000 (1.7 million vs. 1.5 million students) and American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment was 13 percent higher (14,000 vs. 13,000 students). More recently, the number of postbaccalaureate students was higher in 2014 than in 2010 for most groups; the exceptions were White and American Indian/Alaska Native students, whose enrollment decreased during this period.


Figure 3. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2000–2025

Figure 3. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2000–2025


NOTE: Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Projections are based on data through 2014. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions Projection Model, 1980 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.80.


In fall 2014, there were 1.7 million full-time postbaccalaureate students and 1.2 million part-time students. Since 2000, full-time enrollment has increased at a faster rate (54 percent) than part-time enrollment (16 percent). Between 2000 and 2010, full-time enrollment increased by 50 percent, while part-time enrollment increased by 22 percent. More recently, between 2010 and 2014, full-time enrollment increased by 2 percent but part-time enrollment decreased by 5 percent. Between 2014 and 2025, however, part-time enrollment is projected to increase at a faster rate (24 percent) than full-time enrollment (19 percent).


Figure 4. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2000–2014

Figure 4. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2000–2014


NOTE: Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.80.


From fall 2000 to fall 2014, postbaccalaureate enrollment grew at a faster rate at private for-profit institutions (an increase of 493 percent) than at private nonprofit institutions (an increase of 37 percent) and public institutions (an increase of 16 percent), although in 2000 enrollment at private for-profit institutions was relatively small, at 47,000 students. Between 2000 and 2010, postbaccalaureate enrollment increased by 528 percent at private for-profit institutions, while enrollment increased by 34 percent at private nonprofit institutions and by 19 percent at public institutions.


Figure 5. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation in distance education and control of institution: Fall 2014

Figure 5. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation in distance education and control of institution: Fall 2014


NOTE: Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from their instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructors synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 311.15.


Distance education1 courses and programs provide flexible learning opportunities to postbaccalaureate students. In fall 2014, one third (33 percent) of total postbaccalaureate students (953,000) participated in distance education, with one quarter (25 percent) of total postbaccalaureate students (726,000) exclusively taking distance education courses.2 Of the 726,000 students who exclusively took distance education courses, 298,000 were enrolled at institutions located in the same state in which they resided, and 383,000 were enrolled at institutions in a different state.

The percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses differed by institutional control. In fall 2014, the percentage of students who exclusively took distance education courses was higher for those enrolled at private for-profit institutions (81 percent) than for those at private nonprofit (21 percent) and public (17 percent) institutions. The percentage of students who did not take any distance education courses was higher for those enrolled at public (74 percent) and private nonprofit (72 percent) institutions than for those at private for-profit institutions (15 percent).


1 Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from their instructors as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.
2 In comparison, 12 percent of undergraduate students exclusively took distance education courses. See indicator on Undergraduate Enrollment.


Glossary Terms

Data Source

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)