National Center for Education Statistics – information on postsecondary enrollment rates


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Enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment increased 37 percent, from 15.3 million to 21.0 million. Much of the growth between 2000 and 2010 was in full-time enrollment; the number of full-time students rose 45 percent, while the number of part-time students rose 26 percent. During the same time period, the number of females rose 39 percent, while the number of males rose 35 percent. Enrollment increases can be affected both by population growth and by rising rates of enrollment.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 27.3 million to 30.7 million, an increase of 12 percent, and the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2010. In addition to enrollment in accredited 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities, about 539,000 students attended non-degree-granting, Title IV eligible, postsecondary institutions in fall 2009. These institutions are postsecondary institutions that do not award associate’s or higher degrees; they include, for example, institutions that offer only career and technical programs of less than 2 years’ duration.


In recent years, the percentage increase in the number of students age 25 and over has been larger than the percentage increase in the number of younger students, and this pattern is expected to continue. Between 2000 and 2010, the enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 34 percent. Enrollment of students 25 and over rose 42 percent during the same period. From 2010 to 2020, NCES projects a rise of 11 percent in enrollments of students under 25, and a rise of 20 percent in enrollments of students 25 and over.



Enrollment trends have differed at the undergraduate and postbaccalaureate levels. Undergraduate enrollment generally increased during the 1970s, but dipped from 10.8 million to 10.6 million between 1983 and 1985. From 1985 to 1992, undergraduate enrollment increased each year, rising 18 percent before stabilizing between 1992 and 1998. Undergraduate enrollment rose 37 percent between 2000 and 2010. Postbaccalaureate enrollment had been steady at about 1.6 million in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but rose 78 percent between 1985 and 2010.

Since 1988, the number of females in postbaccalaureate programs has exceeded the number of males. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of male full-time postbaccalaureate students increased by 38 percent, compared with a 62 percent increase in the number of females. Among part-time postbaccalaureate students, the number of males increased by 17 percent and the number of females increased by 26 percent.


The percentage of American college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black has been increasing. From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 3 percent to 13 percent, the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 6 percent, and the percentage of Black students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent. During the same period, the percentage of White students fell from 83 percent to 61 percent. Race/ethnicity is not reported for nonresident aliens, who made up 2 percent and 3 percent of total enrollment in 1976 and 2010, respectively.




SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001),Chapter 3 .


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