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Changes in Postsecondary Awards Below the Bachelor’s Degree: 1997 to 2007

On December 2, the National Center for Education Statistics released Changes in Postsecondary Awards Below the Bachelor’s Degree: 1997 to 2007. Often referred to as subbaccalaureate awards, postsecondary awards below the bachelor’s degree constitute a large and growing segment of U.S. postsecondary credentials. Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) this Statistics In Brief describes changes in the number and types of awards conferred over the decade between 1997 and 2007. The study reports on changes within fields of study, the types of institutions that confer the subbaccalaureate awards, and differences in awards by gender and race/ethnicity. Findings include:

  • The total number of subbaccalaureate awards (certificates and associate’s degrees) increased 28 percent to a total of 1.5 million between 1997 and 2007.
  • In 2007, almost 40 percent of undergraduate credentials conferred in postsecondary institutions participating in federal financial aid programs (Title IV) were subbaccalaureate credentials.
  • While community colleges still account for the largest share of subbaccalaureate credentials—58 percent conferred in 2007—the share conferred by private for-profit institutions increased from 24 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2007.
  • Health care is the most common field of study, accounting for 31 percent of all subbaccalaureate awards in 2007, and increasing 68 percent over the decade studied. Women earned a majority of all subbaccalaureate awards (62 percent in 2007); and the rate of increase in awards to women surpassed that for men.
  • The rate of increase in subbaccalaureate awards conferred over the decade was highest for Hispanic students (74 percent), followed by Black students (54 percent); in contrast, awards to White students increased 11 percent.

To view the full report, go to

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