Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Top 100 Bachelor's | Master's | Professional Doctoral Degrees Conferred

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Top 100 Bachelor's | Master's | Professional Doctoral Degrees Conferred

Article excerpt

In academic year 2012-13, 2.76 million degrees were awarded at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, combined by U.S.-based postsecondary institutions that are open to the public. Of these degrees, nearly 750,000, or 27 percent, were conferred to people of color. Although the numbers continue to rise, there is still a gap in representation compared to the general U.S. population, which, as of the 2010 population census, included 38 percent people of color. In this edition of the Top 100 annual analysis, we consider in more detail the conferral of bachelor's and graduate level degrees during academic year 2012-13, employing data that were recently made available by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Before examining some characteristics of 2012-13 bachelor's and graduate degree recipients, we describe further the data source and the listings included in this year's edition.

Data source

Since we started this analysis in 1990, we have been using data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Specifically, these data are obtained through the "Completions Survey" of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Institutions that meet the requirements for distributing federal Title IV student financial assistance (grants and loans) are required to complete the IPEDS surveys or else face fines and penalties. As a result, this data system includes universal information for these "Title IV" participating institutions. Another requirement for Title IV eligibility is that these institutions be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Following new protocols established last year, NCES delayed releasing these data until they published their "First Look" tables ( pubs2014/2014066.pdf), summarizing these and other survey data collected during the same cycle. Although officially published, the data are still characterized as "Preliminary." There may be some slight changes to these data, but, historically, only very minor changes are posted in a final version.

The graduate degrees captured within these data include one category for the master's (regardless of whether it is a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or any of a number of professional master's degrees, such as MBA, MFA, MSW, etc.) and three types of doctoral degrees.

For this analysis, we only distinguish between two types of doctoral degrees: the "professional practice" doctoral degree that includes those awarded in medicine, law, divinity, and a number of other health fields; and all other types, which are dominated by what is labeled "Doctor's degree-research/scholarship." In fact, the third type of degree, "Doctor's degree-other," accounts for less than 1 percent of all doctoral degrees conferred. We combined those with the research/scholarship degrees. For brevity, we sometimes refer to these as Professional Doctoral, which accounts for just about 63 percent of all doctoral degrees, and Academic Doctoral, which accounts for the remaining 37 percent.

Institutions categorize and report degrees according to standard codes for both race/ethnicity of the student receiving the degree and the discipline in which the degree was awarded. For race/ ethnicity, institutions are required to ask students if they are Hispanic (yes/no) as well as to check off all race categories with which they affiliate.

Institutions then use a set of "trumping rules" to report the individual into a single category. Students who are not U.S. citizens and not permanent residents are first pulled out and categorized as "non-resident alien." Remaining students who indicate that they are Hispanic are counted in that single category. Any of the remaining students who checked off more than one racial/ ethnic category are categorized as "two or more races."

Finally, the remaining students are categorized into the single racial/ethnic group with which they indicated affiliation among the choices: African-American/Black; Asian American; American Indian or Alaskan Native, which we label "Native American"; and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, which we aggregate into the "Asian American" category for this report. …

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