A Decade of Change
Postsecondary students can choose from many types of institutions, including public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions that offer primarily bachelor’s degrees or higher, public 2-year institutions (usually called “community colleges”) that offer mainly associate’s degrees and vocational certificates, and other less-than-4-year institutions. This last type of institution typically offers certificate programs that can be completed in about a year of full-time enrollment, but some of these institutions offer associate’s degrees as well. Most students at these types of institutions attend private for-profit institutions, commonly known as “trade” or “proprietary” schools.
In both 1990 and 2000, approximately one-half of all full-time dependent undergraduates attended public 4-year institutions, and about one-quarter attended private not-for-profit 4-year institutions (table 1). Between 1990 and 2000, the proportion attending public 2-year institutions (community colleges) increased, while the proportion enrolled at private for-profit less-than-4-year institutions decreased. The decline in the proportion attending private for-profit less-than-4-year institutions may reflect in part the decline in the number of such institutions (from 5,544 in 1990 to 4,343 in 2000) (U.S. Department of Education 2003, table 5). The number of public 2-year institutions increased from 968 to 1,068, and the number of 4-year institutions remained approximately the same (about 600 public and 1,500 private not-for-profit institutions).
Among full-time dependent undergraduates in the lowest family income quarter, the percentage attending private not-for-profit 4-year institutions declined between 1990 and 2000 (from 28 to 23 percent), as did the percentage attending private for-profit less-than-4-year institutions (from 9 to 5 percent) (table 1). The percentage attending public 2-year institutions increased from 16 to 25 percent, however. In both years, 47 percent of low-income dependent students attended public 4-year institutions. It is possible that lower income students reacted to rising tuition by choosing institutions with lower prices (either within or across sector), but price is only one of many factors students consider in choosing a college.
Figures and Tables
Table 1: Percentage distribution of full-time, full-year dependent undergraduates according to type of institution, by family income: 1989–90 and 1999–2000
Table SA1: Standard errors for table 1: Percentage distribution of full-time, full-year dependent undergraduates according to type of institution, by family income: 1989–90 and 1999–2000