NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Celebrating 150 Years of Education Data

Statistics paint a portrait of our Nation. They provide important information that can help track progress and show areas that need attention. Beginning with the first Census in 1790, federal statistics have been used to allocate representation in Congress. Labor statistics have been gathered since the middle of the 19th century. And since 1870, the federal government has collected statistics on the condition and progress of American education.

One of the early Commissioners, John Eaton, lamented in his 1875 report to Congress that, “When the work of collecting educational statistics was begun by the Office, it was found that there was no authentic list of the colleges in the United States, or of academies, or normal schools, or schools of science, law, or medicine, or of any other class of educational institutions.” In the beginning, data were collected on basic items such as public school enrollment and attendance, teachers and their salaries, high school graduates, and expenditures. Over the years, the level of detail gradually has increased to address the needs of policy makers and the public. For example, data collections were expanded after WWII to provide more information on the growth of postsecondary education resulting from the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill.

Patterns of enrollment change help to illustrate the growth in the nation’s education system. In 1900, relatively few students ever attended high school or college.  Of the 17.1 million students in 1900, only about 0.6 million, 4 percent of students, were enrolled in grades 9 through 12 and 0.2 million, 1 percent of students, were enrolled in postsecondary education.  During the first half of the 20th century, high school became a key part of the educational experience for most Americans. Between 1899-1900 and 1949-50, both population growth and an increase in the number of students attending high school and postsecondary education led to shifts in the distribution of students at different levels. Of the 31.2 million students in 1949-50, about 71 percent were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 8, about 21 percent were enrolled in grades 9 through 12, and about 9 percent were enrolled in college. From 1949–50 to more recent years, enrollment in postsecondary education has become more common. Of the 75.7 million students enrolled in 2015, about 26 percent were enrolled in postsecondary education. About 52 percent of students were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 8 in 2015, and about 22 percent were enrolled in grades 9 through 12.   

In 1962, the National Center for Education Statistics was authorized by legislation, which underscored the expanding role of education statistics within the federal system. This new role was highlighted by major advances in gathering policy-relevant and research-oriented information about our education system through the establishment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the late 1960s and the beginning of the National Longitudinal Study of 1972. Elementary and secondary administrative record systems were expanded by working collaboratively with state education agencies through the Common Core of Data beginning in the late 1970s.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) was developed from existing systems to better meet the needs of institutional, state, and federal decision makers. At the same time, the Center developed new sample surveys to efficiently meet research and policy needs. These new surveys included the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (1986-87), the Schools and Staffing Survey (1987-88) and the National Household Education Survey (1991).

NCES longitudinal studies have continued to strongly support research and policy analyses at all levels from early childhood to postsecondary education.  One example was the groundbreaking Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (2001), which obtained nationally representative data on children from birth to kindergarten entry. NCES has continued a tradition of innovation by including digitally based assessments in the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress and by introducing interactive geographic mapping to our website. NCES strives to improve measures of the condition of education by collecting data that reflect the educational experiences of all students, while maintaining a faithful commitment to accuracy, transparency, and objectivity. Find out more about the history of NCES here or by visiting the NCES webpage at nces.ed.gov.

 

By Tom Snyder

Back to School by the Numbers: 2018

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity as students head back to school for the 2018–19 academic year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles some back-to-school facts and figures that give a snapshot of our schools and colleges for the coming year. You can see the full report on the NCES website, but here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights. You can also click on the hyperlinks throughout the blog to see additional data on these topics.

The staff of NCES and the Institute of Education Sciences hopes our nation’s students, teachers, administrators, school staffs, and families have an outstanding school year!

 

50.7 million

The number of students expected to attend public elementary and secondary schools this year—slightly more than in the 2017–18­ school year (50.6 million). The racial and ethnic profile of these students includes 24.1 million White students, 7.8 million Black students, 14.0 million Hispanic students, 2.6 million Asian students, 0.2 million Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.6 million students of Two or more races.

About 5.9 million students are expected to attend private schools this year.

 

16.0

The expected number of public school students per teacher in fall 2018. This ratio has remained consistent at around 16.0 since 2010. However, the pupil/teacher ratio is lower in private schools (12.3) and has fallen since 2010, when it was 13.0. 

 

$12,910

This is the projected per-student expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools in 2018–19. Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $654 billion for the 2018–19 school year.

 

3.6 million

The number of students expected to graduate from high school this academic year, including about 3.3 million from public schools and nearly 0.4 million from private schools.

 

19.9 million

This is the number of students expected to attend American colleges and universities this fall—higher than the fall 2000 enrollment of 15.3 million but lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010. About 13.3 million students will attend four-year institutions and 6.7 million will attend two-year institutions.

 

56.5%

The projected percentage of female postsecondary students in fall 2018, for a total of about 11.2 million female students, compared with 8.7 million male students.

 

By Lauren Musu, NCES and Molly Fenster, American Institutes for Research

Trends in Graduate Student Loan Debt

Sixty percent of students who completed a master’s degree in 2015–16 had student loan debt, either from undergraduate or graduate school. Among those with student loan debt, the average balance was $66,000.[i] But there are many types of master’s degrees. How did debt levels vary among specific degree programs? And how have debt levels changed over time? You can find the answers, for both master’s and doctorate degree programs, in the Condition of Education 2018.

Between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, average student loan debt for master’s degree completers increased by:

  • 71 percent for master of education degrees (from $32,200 to $55,200),
  • 65 percent for master of arts degrees (from $44,000 to $72,800),
  • 39 percent for master of science degrees (from $44,900 to $62,300), and
  • 59 percent for “other” master’s degrees[ii] (from $47,200 to $75,100).

Average loan balances for those who completed master of business education degrees were higher in 2015–16 than in 1999–2000 ($66,300 vs. $47,400), but did not show a clear trend during this period.

Between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, average student loan debt for doctorate degree completers increased by:

  • 97 percent for medical doctorates (from $124,700 to $246,000),
  • 75 percent for other health science doctorates[iii] (from $115,500 to $202,400),
  • 77 percent for law degrees (from $82,400 to $145,500),
  • 104 percent for Ph.D.’s outside the field of education (from $48,400 to $98,800), and
  • 105 percent for “other (non-Ph.D.) doctorates[iv] (from $64,500 to $132,200).

While 1999–2000 data were unavailable for education doctorate completers, the average balance in 2015–16 ($111,900) was 66 percent higher than the average loan balance for education doctorate completers in 2003–04 ($67,300).

For more information, check out the full analysis in the Condition of Education 2018.

 

By Joel McFarland

 

[i] The average balances in this analysis exclude students with no student loans.

[ii] Includes public administration or policy, social work, fine arts, public health, and other.

[iii] Includes chiropractic, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.

[iv] Includes science or engineering, psychology, business or public administration, fine arts, theology, and other.

Announcing the Condition of Education 2018 Release

We are pleased to present The Condition of Education 2018, a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing the latest data on education in the United States. This report is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress. This year’s report includes 47 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. 

In addition to the regularly updated annual indicators, this year’s spotlight indicators highlight new findings from recent NCES surveys. The first spotlight indicator examines the choices and costs that families face as they select early childhood care arrangements. Drawing on data from the NCES National Household Education Survey, the indicator finds that early childhood care expenses were higher in 2016 than in 2001. For example, families’ average hourly out-of-pocket expenses for center-based care were 72 percent higher in 2016 ($7.60) than in 2001 ($4.42), in constant 2016–17 dollars. The indicator also finds that in 2016, some 57 percent of children under the age of 6 had parents who reported there were good choices for child care where they lived. Among children whose parents reported difficulty finding child care in 2016, some 32 percent cited cost as the primary reason. The complete indicator, Early Childhood Care Arrangements: Choices and Costs, contains more information about how these findings varied by family income, race/ethnicity, locale (urban, suburban, town, or rural), and children’s age.


Average hourly out-of-pocket child care expense for children under 6 years old and not yet in kindergarten whose families paid for child care, by primary type of child care arrangement: 2001 and 2016

1 Center-based arrangements include day care centers, Head Start programs, preschools, prekindergartens, and childhood programs.
NOTE: Estimates include only those children whose families paid at least part of the cost out of pocket for their child to receive nonparental care at least weekly.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES: 2001 and 2016). See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 202.30c.


The second spotlight describes the characteristics of teachers who entered the teaching profession through an alternative route to certification program. Compared to those who entered through a traditional route, higher percentages of alternative route teachers in 2015–16 were Black (13 vs. 5 percent), Hispanic (15 vs. 8 percent), of Two or more races (2 vs. 1 percent), and male (32 vs. 22 percent), and lower percentages were White (66 vs. 83 percent). Overall, 18 percent of public school teachers in 2015–16 had entered teaching through an alternative route to certification program. The percentages were higher among those who taught career or technical education (37 percent), natural sciences (28 percent), foreign languages (26 percent), English as a second language (24 percent), math and computer science (22 percent), and special education (20 percent). The analysis also examines how the prevalence of alternative route teachers varies between charter schools and traditional public schools, between high and low poverty schools, and between schools that enroll high or low percentages of racial/ethnic minority students. For more findings from this analysis of data from the National Teacher and Principal Survey, see the complete indicator, Characteristics of Public School Teachers Who Completed Alternative Route to Certification Programs.


Percentage distribution of public elementary and secondary school teachers, by route to certification and race/ethnicity: 2015–16

NOTE: Teachers were asked whether they entered teaching through an alternative route to certification program, which is a program that was designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career (for example, a state, district, or university alternative route to certification program). Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data for American Indian/Alaska Native teachers who entered teaching through a traditional route and Pacific Islander teachers who entered teaching through traditional and alternative routes round to zero and are not displayed.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–16. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 209.24.


The third spotlight presents data on average student loan balances for students completing graduate degrees. Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, this indicator examines how average student loan balances changed between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, and how those trends varied by degree type. Among graduate school completers who had student loans for undergraduate or graduate studies, average student loan balances increased for all degree types (in constant 2016–17 dollars). For example, average student loan balances for students who completed research doctorate degrees, such as a Ph.D., doubled during this time period, from $53,500 to $108,400 (an increase of 103 percent). Average student loan balances increased by 90 percent for those who completed professional doctorate degrees, such as medical doctorates and law degrees (from $98,200 to $186,600). The complete indicator, Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers, also describes how average student loan balances varied among specific degree programs, such as medical doctorates, law degrees, and master’s degrees in business administration.


Average cumulative student loan balance for graduate school completers, by degree type: Selected years, 1999–2000 through 2015–16

1 Includes chiropractic, dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine. 
NOTE: Data refer to students who completed graduate degrees in the academic years indicated. Includes student loans for undergraduate and graduate studies. Average excludes students with no student loans.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999–2000, 2003–04, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:2000, NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08, NPSAS:12, and NPSAS:16). See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 332.45.


The Condition includes an At a Glance section, which allows readers to quickly make comparisons within and across indicators, and a Highlights section, which captures key findings from each indicator. The report contains a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources that provide additional background information. Each indicator provides links to the source data tables used to produce the analyses.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available on The Condition of Education website. In addition, NCES produces a wide range of reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public. For more information on our latest activities and releases, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner 

New Data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study

Seventy-two percent of all undergraduate students received some type of financial aid, including loans, in the 2015–16 academic year. For those who received aid, the average was about $12,300 per student. If you want to explore more statistics on student financial aid, you can! NCES has released new data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). Data users have the ability to generate estimates and perform their own analyses using our online data analysis tools available in DataLab. Users can select the tool that best meets their needs, including PowerStats, QuickStats, and TrendStats.

NPSAS is the most comprehensive nationally representative study of how students and their families finance postsecondary education in the United States. The NPSAS:16 sample consisted of approximately 113,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending 1,800 postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to information on financial aid, the study collects data on many other topics, such as student demographics, total and net prices of attendance, education-related debt, major field of study, employment while enrolled, and participation in remedial education.

To enhance the data and address emerging policy issues, NCES has also included new and expanded items on these topics in NPSAS:16:

  • Financial literacy, including questions to measure understanding of key financial concepts such as inflation, interest rates, and investment, plus questions on the possible consequences for failing to repay federal student loans;
  • Alternative repayment options for federal loans, including awareness of and plans to use income-driven repayment and public service loan forgiveness;
  • Student veterans and military students, including an oversample of student veterans, measures of federal veterans’ education benefits derived from administrative sources, indicators of whether institutions offer programs targeted to veterans and military students, and new measures of state and institution aid specifically for student veterans; and
  • Study abroad, including the location and duration of time spent abroad.

A First Look report, which was released in January, highlighted key findings from the study. For more information on how the study was planned and conducted, including extensive details on sampling, data collection, response rates, weighting, and other topics, we encourage you to see the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16) Data File Documentation report.

By Tracy Hunt-White