With over 5,000 graduate and professional students at Iowa State University, nearly half of them women, this second-largest population at the University has a unique story to tell. In many ways, graduate students experience a hybrid of both the student and staff experience as they navigate through their time at Iowa State.
- Women's graduate retention outpaces men's
- Women lag in Master's program enrollment; women's Master's program enrollment is skewed by college
- Women are underrepresented in Ph.D. programs; women's Ph.D program enrollment is skewed by college
- Women make up the majority of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and certificate enrollments
- Women enrollment in non-degree programs has increased since 2010
Women's graduate retention outpaces men's
From 2010 to 2018, graduate student headcount at Iowa State remained relatively steady. Total graduate enrollment in 2010 was 5,310, compared to 5,371 in 2018.
Nationally, women are a majority of students enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs. Women were 60% of all students enrolled in Master’s, Ph.D., and professional programs in 2018. Women have also earned a majority of Master’s degrees since 1981-82; in 2017-18, women earned 58.4% of all Master’s degrees. Women also earned a majority of Ph.D. degrees starting in 2005-2006, and in 2018, earned 53% of all Ph.D.s conferred in the United States. This section takes a deep dive into graduate student enrollments at Iowa State University.
Iowa State’s first year retention rate for graduate students is quite high, over 85% for both women and men. However, from 2015-2018, women’s retention rates were consistently higher than men’s, or approximately 89% for women and about 86% for men.
Women lag in Master's program enrollment; women's Master's program enrollment is skewed by college
Enrollment in Master’s degree programs has remained relatively steady from 2010 to 2018, with only a small decline from 2010 (2170 students) to 2018 (2093 students). Women’s enrollment in Master’s programs at Iowa State has remained steady at 44% from 2010 to 2018. White women’s percentage has declined slightly, from 28% in 2010 to 26% in 2018. Master’s program enrollment by students of color increased slightly over the same period.
Women comprise the largest percentage of Master’s candidates in the colleges of Human Sciences (~75%), Veterinary Medicine (~65%), and Design (~55%). Women are underrepresented in the Colleges of Engineering (~20%) and Business (~40%). Women of color are best represented in the College of Human Sciences, although they have measurable representation in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Interdisciplinary programs.
Women are underrepresented in Ph.D. programs; women's Ph.D program enrollment is skewed by college
Ph.D. program enrollment remained steady from 2010 to 2018, with between 2100 and 2400 students enrolled. Women are also underrepresented among Ph.D. students.
Women are about 40% of all Ph.D. students, a percentage that did not change from 2010 to 2018. International students comprise about half of the Ph.D. student population (34% men and 19% women). Among domestic students, white males are about 20% and declining and white women are about 14% of Ph.D. student population and in both cases, their percentages have declined.
During the same period, Ph.D. students of color increased from about 10% to 15%, with the largest increase coming among women of color, with multiracial and Hispanic women making measurable gains.
Women are a majority of the Ph.D. students in the College of Human Sciences (~65%) and interdisciplinary programs (~60%). These programs also have the best representation of African American and Hispanic women Ph.D. students. Women are also well-represented in the Colleges of Design and Veterinary Medicine, at about 50% each. In all other colleges, women are underrepresented. Women are especially underrepresented in the College of Engineering, where they comprise about 25% of Ph.D. students, with a plurality (18% of the 25%) being international women students.
Women make up the majority of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and certificate enrollments
Iowa State also offers a professional degree, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Enrollment in this program has remained steady, at just under 600 students, from 2010 to 2018. Women are the large majority of these students. In 2010, women were 72% of the students in the DVM program. In 2018, they were 82%. Of these, a large majority (59% in 2010 and 62% in 2018) are white women.
Over the same period, Hispanic women increased from 1.5% to 3.5% of DVM students and Asian women increased from less than 1% in 2010 to about 2% each by 2018. African American women held steady at 1.5% over the same period.
In 2018, 130 graduate students were enrolled in certificate programs at Iowa State.This is an increase from 2010, when 79 students were enrolled, but a significant decline from 2014, when 170 students were enrolled.Women are a large majority of students enrolled in certificate programs.
Women increased from 40% of certificate students to 78% in 2018. Much of this change is attributable to white women, who increased from 33% of all certificate students in 2010 to 60% in 2018. White males, by contrast, declined in proportion, from 46% in 2010 to 19% in 2018. Almost all of the students of color in certificate programs are women.
The distribution of women students in certificate programs is highly skewed across colleges. White women comprise 100% of the certificate students in the College of Veterinary Medicine and 75% of the certificate students in the College of Human Sciences. By contrast, white men are 100% of the certificate students in the colleges of Design and Engineering and 75% of the certificate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Women of color as an aggregate are best represented in the College of Human Sciences’ certificate programs. However, African American women are best represented in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at 12.5% of certificate program students.
Women enrollment in non-degree programs has increased since 2010
Non-degree student enrollment declined from 526 in 2010 to 372 in 2018. Women increased as a percentage of non-degree students from 43% in 2010 to 51% in 2018. Non-degree students are quite diverse, with white students comprising only about 25% of all non-degree enrollees. International students, both male and female, are a disproportionate share of this population.
Create programs to appeal to women graduate students
Recruitment of graduate students is a growing challenge during a period of declining enrollments. Recognizing that women are a majority of graduate students nationwide, we recommend that Iowa State invest in graduate and professional programs that are likely to appeal to women. This can include certificate programs and other micro-credentials, such as “badges” or concentrations. In addition, expansion of interdisciplinary programs, and those in the human sciences are likely to attract more women students as well.
Increase the pipeline of women in STEM
Engineering and the sciences are particularly strong programs at Iowa State and these graduate programs suffer from a lack of women, especially women of color, in the degree pipeline. Programs like WISE are helpful to improving retention and graduation rates of women in these male-dominated fields. However, there also needs to be intentional investment in undergraduate research and mentorship to encourage women to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields especially.
Written by Karen Kedrowski
Edited by Melissa Miller
Data Curation by Karen Kedrowski and Natalie Clark
Data Analysis and Visualization by Natalie Clark
These analyses are derived from data available on Access Plus and analyzed by the Status Committee. These data do not include analysis of retention rates, which is clearly an important variable to examine. This analysis also does not examine the size of student assistantship awards by program or by sex, which is an important means to recruit high-performing students in any field. Similarly, we were not able to compare student loan burdens by sex for graduate students. Access Plus classifies students using the gender binary and uses Census Bureau classifications for race.