How Has College Attendance and Types of College Degrees Changed over Time?

College attendance in the United States increased by about 50 percent between 1986 and 2011. Most of the new attendees studied in humanities fields such as visual arts, performing arts and communications. The number of students in math, technology, science and engineering degrees has stayed at the same level or decreased. More students graduated with a computer science degree in 1986 than did in 2009, and in 2009, there were only about 500 more mathematics and statistics graduates than there were 25 years earlier.

More facts about educational attainment:

  • Students in science, math, technology and engineering disciplines are much more likely to be international students than U.S. students. In fact, the number of U.S. students in these disciplines has dropped.

  • About 40 percent of U.S. college graduates end up in jobs that do not require a college degree.

  • The disciplines that have the best record with job placement after graduation include education, engineering, math and computer science. Health, physical science and business also have high job placement rates. Only about 45 percent of humanities students get jobs that require a college degree, compared with more than 60 percent of health students and about 70 percent of education students.

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