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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

NCES Reports on Condition of U.S. Education

June 3, 2003

On June 1, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) submitted an annual report to Congress detailing key indicators and trends in education. This report examines 44 indicators that represent a consensus of professional judgment on key measures of the condition and progress of education in the United States.

The report, “The Condition of Education 2003,” chronicles trends in pre-elementary through postsecondary segments. It is a comprehensive listing of data available as of April 2003. Among the main findings related to postsecondary education are:

In a change from the enrollment patterns of the 1980s and 1990s, undergraduate enrollment in the current decade is projected to increase at a faster rate in four-year institutions than in two-year institutions. Women’s undergraduate enrollment is expected to continue increasing at a faster rate than men’s.

Two percent of undergraduate students were foreign students with visas and 5 percent were foreign-born permanent residents, compared with 9 and 3 percent, respectively, of graduate and first-professional students in 1999-2000.

On average, first-time recipients of bachelor’s degrees in 1999-2000 who did not leave college temporarily for six months or more took 55 months to complete a degree. Those who attended only one institution took less time on average (51 months) to complete a degree than those who attended multiple institutions.

Among students who sought a bachelor’s degree and began their postsecondary studies at a four-year institution in 1995-96, just over half graduated from that institution within six years. Others in this group transferred and earned a degree elsewhere, making the cohort’s six-year rate of attaining a bachelor’s degree higher (63 percent).

Pell Grant recipients tend to start their postsecondary studies with more disadvantages than low- and middle-income nonrecipients. However, among 1995–96 beginning postsecondary students, no difference was found in the overall persistence rates of Pell recipients and nonrecipients after six years—that is, in the percentages of students who attained any degree or certificate or were still enrolled.

The number of associate’s degrees awarded increased at a faster rate than the number of bachelor’s degrees between 1990–91 and 2000–01. The number of associate’s degrees awarded increased more during the first half of this period than in the latter half, while the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded increased by 6 to 7 percent during each five-year period.

The majority of postsecondary institutions took actions that affected faculty tenure as of 1998, and the proportion of recently hired faculty who were not on a tenure track increased from 1992 to 1998. These institutions offered early or phased retirement to full-time tenured faculty more often than they instituted more stringent standards for granting tenure or downsizing tenured faculty.

To obtain a copy of the full report and information from past studies, visit the NCES Web site at