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Higher Ed by the Numbers

Highlights from the 2013 Digest of Education Statistics.

December 8, 2014
 
I’ve been spending some time with the tables from the 2013 Digest of Education Statistics.  Here are the numbers, levels, and trends that I’m trying to drill into my brain.  I’ve rounded all the numbers in the hope of remembering them, you can go to the link to get the exact figures.
 
Institutions:
  • The US has just over 4,700 degree granting institutions of postsecondary education.
  • However, almost 1,400 of these schools have less than 500 students.  
  • There are over 220 schools with 20,000 or more students, of which 93 have over 30,000 enrolled students.  (Only 21 of these big schools are private non-profit).
Enrollment:
 
  • We have about 21 million students enrolled in US higher education.  Of those, 15 million go to a public institution and 6 million are at private schools. 
  • Amongst private schools, about twice as many students go to non-profits (4 million) as for-profits (2 million).  
  • About 13 million of the 21 million students are full-time students.  
  • When I went to college (from 1987 to 1991) the total postsecondary enrollment was only about 13 million.   Back in 1960 it was less than 4 million.
  • About 3.2 million students graduated high school in 2012, and of these about two-thirds enrolled in college.  Back when I graduated high school (1987) only 57 percent of graduates went on to college.
  • The likelihood that a high school completer is enrolled in college is highly dependent on family income.  If you graduate from high school and your family is in the top 20 percent of all family incomes, then there is a greater than 80% chance that you will enroll in college.  Those odds drop to just over 1-in-2 if your family is in the bottom 20 percent of family income.
Faculty and Staff:
 
  • Almost 4 million of us work at degree granting institutions. 
  • There are about 1.5 million people counted as faculty members. 
  • Faculty are split almost equally between full-time and part-time status.  Back in 1970 the proportion of faculty that were full-time was almost 8-in-10. 
  • About 950,000 faculty work for public institutions, 430,000 for private non-profits, and 137,000 for for-profits.  In constant dollars the pay of full-time faculty has not changed very much since 1970. 
  • Today, the average full-time faculty member earns $77,000, only $3,000 more (In constant dollars) than 1970.  
  • In 1993 about 63 percent of all full-time faculty in degree granting institutions had tenure.  Today, that number is down to 45 percent.  
  • Almost 3 million are counted as professional staff, so there must be some overlap between faculty and professional staff.
Degrees:
 
  • US institutions annually confer about 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees, 750,000 master’s degrees, and 170,000 PhD’s degrees.  
  • Women make up the big majority of bachelor’s (about a million) and master’s (450,000), and a bit more of the PhD’s (87,000).
Finances:
 
  • Total higher ed expenditures are a bit under $500 billion a year.  This compares to about $245 billion a year (in constant dollars) to when I was in college in 1990. 
  • The market value of all endowment funds today is a bit above $430 billion.  This is a pretty good improvement on the $124 billion endowment size (constant dollars) that existed in 1990.  
Distance Learning:
 
  • Over 5 million students are involved in distance (online) learning.  This is over a quarter of all students. 
  • Over 2.5 million, or 13 percent, of students are exclusively learning at a distance. 
  • The breakdown of institution types that students enrolled exclusively in distance learning programs is about 1.2 million in public, 500,00 in private non-profit, and 900,000 in for-profit.  Less than 7% of all higher ed students are enrolled in programs where all the courses are taught exclusively online.
Majors:
 
  • The two biggest undergraduate majors are health sciences (over 4 million) and business (about 3.5 million). 
  • Over a million students major in education. 
  • English majors (280,000) top history majors (200,000), which are both bigger than the number of sociology majors (150,000).  
  • The numbers of students taking French language classes has dropped from 370,000 in 1965 to 216,000 in 2009.  During that same time the number of Spanish language students jumped from 310,000 to 860,000.   

What are some other higher ed numbers that we should all have down cold?

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