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Postbaccalaureate Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2014)

Total enrollment in postbaccalaureate degree programs was 2.9 million in 2012, an increase of 57 percent since 1990. Postbaccalaureate enrollment is projected to increase to 3.6 million by 2023.

In 2012, 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 at a faster rate between 2000 and 2010 (36 percent) than between 1990 and 2000 (16 percent). In 2012, total enrollment was 1 percent lower than in 2010. Between 2012 and 2023, postbaccalaureate enrollment is projected to increase to 3.6 million students.


Figure 1. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 1990–2023

Figure 1. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 1990–2023

NOTE: Data include unclassified graduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Projections are based on data through 2012.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90–99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2013, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, tables 105.20 and 303.80.


In 2012, some 1.7 million postbaccalaureate students were female (59 percent of enrollment) and 1.2 million were male (41 percent). From 1990 to 2000, female enrollment increased by 27 percent, while male enrollment was 4 percent higher in 2000 than in 1990. In more recent years, female enrollment continued to increase at a faster rate than male enrollment. Between 2000 and 2010, female enrollment increased by 42 percent, while male enrollment increased by 28 percent. Postbaccalaureate enrollment was 1 percent lower in 2012 than in 2010 for female students and less than 1 percent lower in 2012 than in 2010 for male students. Female enrollment is projected to increase by 28 percent between 2012 and 2023, from 1.7 to 2.2 million students, while male enrollment is projected to increase by 21 percent, from 1.2 to 1.5 million students.


Figure 2. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 1990–2023

Figure 2. Actual and projected postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 1990–2023

NOTE: Data include unclassified graduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Projections are based on data through 2012.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90–99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2013, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, tables 105.20 and 303.80.


In 2012, there were 1.6 million full-time postbaccalaureate students and 1.3 million part-time students. Since 1990, full-time enrollment has consistently increased at a higher rate than part-time enrollment. Between 1990 and 2000, full-time enrollment increased by 29 percent, while part-time enrollment increased by 5 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, full-time enrollment increased by 50 percent, while part-time enrollment increased by 22 percent. Most recently, full-time enrollment was less than 1 percent higher in 2012 than in 2010, but part-time enrollment in 2012 was 3 percent lower than in 2010. Between 2012 and 2023, full-time and part-time enrollments are projected to increase at about the same rate (26 and 24 percent, respectively).


Figure 3. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 1990–2012

Figure 3. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 1990–2012

NOTE: Data include unclassified graduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90–99); and IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2013, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 303.80.


Between 1990 and 2012, postbaccalaureate degree enrollment increased by 108 percent at private institutions, while it increased by 24 percent at public institutions. During this period, enrollment at private institutions increased from 0.7 to 1.5 million students, and enrollment at public institutions increased from 1.1 to 1.4 million. Since 1990, enrollment has grown at a faster rate at private institutions than at public institutions. Between 1990 and 2000, enrollment at private institutions increased by 30 percent, while enrollment at public institutions increased by 7 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment at private institutions increased by 59 percent, while enrollment at public institutions increased by 19 percent. In 2009, for the first time, a majority of postbaccalaureate students were enrolled at private institutions. Enrollment at private institutions was less than 1 percent higher in 2012 than in 2010. During this period, enrollment at public institutions decreased by 2 percent. In 2012, some 52 percent of students were enrolled at private institutions (including 42 percent at private nonprofit institutions and 10 percent at private for-profit institutions), and 48 percent were enrolled at public institutions.


Figure 4. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions who took distance education courses, by control of institution: Fall 2012

Figure 4. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions who took distance education courses, by control of institution: Fall 2012

NOTE: Data include unclassified graduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2013, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 311.15.


Distance education1 courses and programs provide flexible learning opportunities to postbaccalaureate students. In 2012, about 867,000 postbaccalaureate students participated in distance education, with 639,000 students (22 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment) exclusively taking distance education courses. Of the students who exclusively took distance education courses, 253,000 (or 9 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment) were enrolled in programs located in the same state in which they resided, and 353,000 (or 12 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment) were enrolled in a different state.

There were differences by institutional control in the percentage of students participating exclusively in distance education programs. In 2012, the percentage of students who exclusively took distance education courses was higher for those enrolled at private for-profit institutions (77 percent) than for those at either public (15 percent) or private nonprofit institutions (17 percent). The percentages of students who took at least one distance education course followed a similar pattern: the percentage of students was higher at private for-profit institutions (82 percent) than at public (24 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (23 percent). Percentages of students who did not take any distance education courses were higher for those enrolled at private nonprofit institutions (77 percent) and public institutions (76 percent) than for those at private for-profit institutions (18 percent).

1 Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor 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, if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.


Glossary terms: For-profit institution, Full-time enrollment, Nonprofit institution, Part-time enrollment, Postbaccalaureate enrollment, Private institution, Public school or institution
Data Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education