The U.S. higher education system provides broad access to varied institutions, which differ in size, type of administrative control (public or private), selectivity, and focus. The system gives students flexibility in moving between institutions, transferring credits, entering and leaving schools, and switching between full- and part-time status.
Nonprofit degree-granting institutions that offer face-to-face classroom education continue to dominate U.S. higher education. These traditional institutions have incorporated new modes of education delivery, through IT and distance education, into their repertoires. New institutional forms that feature control by profit-making firms, certificate programs designed to enhance specific skills, and primary reliance on distance education, alone or in combination, have also emerged in recent years. However, these new forms still play a limited role in S&E education.
Institutions Providing S&E Education
The U.S. higher education system consists of approximately 3,700 degree-granting colleges and universities that served about 15.6 million students and awarded 2.3 million degrees in 2000. Almost one-quarter of the degrees were in S&E fields
shows the distribution of institutions, enrollment, degrees, and research and development expenditures across the different types of academic institutions. The institutions are classified according to a typology published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 1994. The typology groups institutions on the basis of the type and breadth of their programs, the volume of doctoral degrees conferred, the amount of Federal R&D funding, and their selectivity in the early 1990s.
Although research and doctorate-granting universities award most of the S&E baccalaureates, students earn such degrees at all kinds of institutions. In different S&E fields, the role of different kinds of institutions varies. Research and doctorate-granting universities produced most of the undergraduate engineering degrees (78 percent in 2000) and about half of the degrees in natural and agricultural sciences and in social and behavioral sciences. However, master's and liberal arts institutions produce most of the undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer sciences