U.S. Geoscience Enrollments and Degrees Slip Slightly in 2010-2011

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

During the 2010-2011 academic year, geoscience enrollments and degrees granted retreated slightly from their peak in the prior year. After several years of strong growth, general enrollments and degrees awarded slipped back to numbers comparable to those in 2008-2009, at all degree levels. In particular, enrollments retreated: undergraduate enrollments dropped about 8 percent to 22,162 students and graduate enrollments decreased about 3 percent to 8,977 students. Even with these decreases, geoscience enrollments remain extremely robust and outside of the outliers of the mid-1980's, enrollments remain near record levels. In addition, numerous departments had been reporting trouble accommodating the rapid expansion seen over the prior five years, so these levels may now be more sustainable for geoscience departments.

Geoscience degrees conferred in the U.S. declined after years of strong growth. Bachelor's degrees awarded dropped about 9 percent to 2,688, while Master's and Doctorate's declined 6 and 4 percent respectively. Some of the decline at the graduate level may be driven by students pursuing employment opportunities prior to graduation. Additionally, impacts on state budgets may also be affecting graduate students, though other studies indicate graduate support is generally the last of resources cut in geoscience departments.