Going to college and getting a degree has become a much more popular choice than it was a generation ago. Recent statistics released from the US Department of Education illustrate several interesting trends in the way of college enrollment. According to the US Department of Labor, in October of 2009, over 70% or high school graduates were enrolled in some form of college. This number has seen a huge increase since the US Department of Labor began keeping statistics in the late 50’s. The previous year saw an all time high of college student enrollments. In October of 2008, nearly 40% of all people between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in college, either 2-year or 4-year programs.
In the last two decades, college student enrollment has increased by substantial jumps. Between the years 1987 and 1997 enrollment in degree universities increased by 14%. The jump between the next ten years, however, was even greater. In degree-earning universities, there was an increase of 26% in enrollment. That jump clearly shows that the trend toward more college attending individuals is going up by greater and greater numbers, regardless of what little dips happen from time to time.
Until 1995, the Department of Education based these statistics on institutions of higher learning. Beyond 1995, however, the data that was gathered expanded to encompass all degree-granting institutions. A distinction was not bade between these during either time period.
It seems more students who are enrolling in college are enrolling full-time as opposed to part time. The growth between 1997-2007 showed a jump in full-time enrollment by a whopping 34% whereas the part-time enrollment was 15%. In 2009, among all high school graduates enrolled in college, over 91% of them were enrolled full time in some sort of university, college or higher education, whether degree seeking or not. However, at least 60% of these graduates were attending a 4 year college or university.
The jump in women and minorities numbers is more statistically significant than that for the growth in men. The number of women enrolled in college has been greater than male college student enrollment since 1980. With every jump in male enrollment, the female jump is greater. The decade between 1997 and 2007 showed an increase nearly double female to male ratio. Men enrolled at a 32% increased rate, but women were a 63% increase in enrollment. In 2009, nearly 74% of high school graduate women were enrolled in college. The number of men was about 66%.
Between 1976 and 2007 the percentage of minorities has more than doubled. In 1976, 15.4% of college student enrollment was accounted for by minorities. In 2007, increased to 32.2%. The greatest increase amongst the minority enrollment can be seen in the Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander populations. Hispanics accounted for 3.5% of enrolled students in 1976, but in 2007 accounted for over 11%. Black enrollment rose though not as dramatically as the aforementioned groups going from 9.4-13.1% of college student enrollment.
Another interesting trend among college enrolled students has to do with age of the student. It would appear that the trend has been leaning toward youth enrolled in college. In the decade between 1995 and 2006 enrollment saw a 33% rise for students between the ages of 18 and 24. The students ages 25 and up saw an increase of about 16% in enrollment. Whether or not this trend will continue has not been determined, but the National Center for Educational Statistics doesn’t think so. They are projecting an increase in older student enrollment.
When discussing enrollment trends, it is useful to point out the differences between enrollment in post secondary and graduate school. Between 1970 and 1997, enrollment saw an increase by 18% among post secondary. It dipped and then leveled in the mid 80’s. Between 1997 and 2007, undergraduate enrollment increased by 25%, but graduate student enrollment during this same time period increased 67% without any dip but had been steady until mid 90’s.
It is worth mentioning that the enrollment increase could be due to different factors. Population growth may affect the increase in college student enrollment, although the increase did happen regardless of the population growth. It may be difficult to determine to what degree this affected the growth.
Additionally, in 2008, although in the middle of a recession, enrollment at 2 year colleges was at an all time high. This increase probably accounts for the overall increase of enrollment at college in general. 2-year colleges are more affordable than 4-year colleges. Often times students can defray the cost of a 4-year program by attending two years at a community college, degreed or not, and transferring their credits to a 4-year college to finish up their degree. Historically, this has happened during recessions. This coupled with the poor job market, students are looking to improve their marketability and ultimately their career goals which can be attained more substantially by holding a post-secondary or even post-graduate degree.
Clearly, attending enrollment among college students is on an upward trend despite population growth. The percentages of students regardless of the number involved, has increased over the last several decades. The greatest growth has been seen among women and minorities, particularly the Hispanic community.
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