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More Students Aspiring to Advanced Degrees

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The largest proportion ever of entering college freshman--65 percent--say they aspire to graduate degrees, according to an annual survey released last week by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Students' plans for advanced degrees jumped significantly this year, the survey found. Last year, the percentage of freshmen who said they intended to seek a master's, doctoral, medical, or law degree was 55 percent.

In the early 1970's, by contrast, fewer than half of all freshmen had such plans.

The poll of 220,757 first-year students at 427 colleges and universities was conducted last fall. It was sponsored by the American Council on Education.

Female students continue to be more likely than male students to want to seek an advanced degree, the survey showed.

Since 1986, more first-year college women than men have set their sights on master's degrees. This year, 39 percent of women, compared with 37.3 percent of men, said they wanted a master's, according to Ellyne R. Riggs, HERI's project coordinator.

The figures were up from last year's figures of 35.2 percent for women and 33.8 percent for men.

Since 1989, more women than men also have aspired to doctoral, medical, and law degrees. This fall, 27.3 percent of women and 25.8 percent of men said they would seek those types of advanced degrees, the survey found.

Closing a Gap

The survey illustrates a dramatic change in women's aspirations toward graduate degrees in recent years. In 1967, men were three times more likely than women to want to pursue a doctoral, medical, or law degree--26.7 percent, compared with 8.5 percent.

"To close such a wide gap in the relatively short span of two decades is truly remarkable,'' said Alexander W. Astin, a professor of higher education at U.C.L.A. and the director of the survey.

In addition, more students than ever indicated this year that college is very important "to get a better job''--82.1 percent--and that making more money was a "very important'' reason for attending college--75.1 percent.

Copies of the report, "The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1993,'' are available for $20 each (prepaid, plus $3 per book for shipping) from the Higher Education Research Institute, U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Education, 405 Hilgard Ave., 3005 Moore Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. 90024-1521.

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