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Statistical Analysis Report:

Student Financing of Graduate and First-Professional Education, 1995-96: With Profiles of Students in Selected Degree Programs

May 1998

(NCES 98-083) Ordering information


Of the 2.8 million students enrolled in graduate and first-professional education in 1995–96, 56 percent were enrolled in master’s degree programs, 12 percent in doctoral programs, 12 percent in first-professional programs, and 20 percent in nondegree programs. Graduate and first-professional students do not constitute a homogeneous group. Their demographic characteristics, when they enroll relative to earning their bachelor’s degree, how they combine work and studying, and how they finance their education all vary by degree program. Some of the major differences are related to level--master’s, doctoral, or first-professional--but others are related to the type of degree program within level as well. Students earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA), for example, are different in a number of ways from students pursuing a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) degree. In 1995–96, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:96) for the first time collected information on the specific type of degree students were pursuing. The essay that constitutes the first part of this report uses the NPSAS:96 data to develop short profiles of the students seeking selected types of graduate and first-professional degrees.


  • About 60 percent of MBA students waited at least 3 years after earning a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in an MBA program.
  • Seventy percent of MBA students were male; 73 percent were white, non-Hispanic.
  • Eighty-seven percent worked while enrolled, and 76 percent of those who worked were employed full time. Among those who worked, 85 percent described themselves as employees who decided to enroll in school as opposed to students who were working to meet their expenses.
  • About half (49 percent) received aid from their employers, a greater proportion than other master’s-level students.


  • Seventy-four percent of master’s-level students in education were female. Their average age was 34 years.
  • Most (86 percent) worked while enrolled, and most of those who worked (75 percent) considered themselves primarily employees who enrolled in school rather than students working to meet expenses.
  • Forty-one percent received financial aid, making them the least likely of the master’s-level students profiled to receive aid.


  • Eighty-one percent of this group waited one or more years after earning a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in their master’s degree program.
  • Although 83 percent worked while enrolled, they were more likely than MBA students or master’s degree students in education to consider themselves primarily students who worked to pay their expenses as opposed to employees: 57 percent versus 15 percent of MBA students and 25 percent of master’s degree students in education.
  • Fifty-eight percent received financial aid in 1995–96, averaging $8,700 for those with aid.


  • Twenty-five percent of PhD students began their graduate program within a year of earning their bachelor’s degree, and another 27 percent enrolled 1 or 2 years later.
  • The majority of PhD students were male (62 percent); 69 percent were white, non-Hispanic, and 17 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander.
  • Eighty percent of those who worked considered themselves primarily students working to meet expenses rather than employees who decided to enroll in school.
  • Two-thirds received financial aid in 1995–96 (averaging $12,500 for aided students), and 41 percent received assistantships, a much greater proportion than other groups profiled here.


  • Seventy-nine percent of EdD students had delayed starting their graduate program for at least 7 years after they earned their bachelor’s degrees, and 59 percent were 40 years old or older (versus 17 percent of PhD students).
  • Virtually all (98 percent) worked while enrolled, and 83 percent of those who worked were employed at least 35 hours per week. Relatively few (16 percent) enrolled full time, full year.


  • The majority of medical students enrolled either within a year of receiving their bachelor’s degree (57 percent) or within 1 to 2 years (another 24 percent), and almost all (93 percent) enrolled full time, full year.
  • Thirty-one percent worked while enrolled, but 88 percent considered themselves primarily students working to meet expenses.
  • Seventy-one percent of medical students borrowed in 1995–96, and the average total amount borrowed for graduate education from all sources by those who completed in 1995–96 was $55,900.


  • The majority of law students (77 percent) attended full time, full year, and 56 percent worked while enrolled.
  • Eighty-one percent received some financial aid (the same percentage as medical stu-dents). Like medical students, they relied heavily on loans: 75 percent borrowed in 1995–96, and law students who completed in 1995–96 had borrowed an average of $47,400 from all sources for their graduate education.

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education