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2008 Spotlight

Community College

Section 1. Institutional Characteristics

Enrollment Patterns

In fall 2006, over 6.2 million students (35 percent of all postsecondary students) were enrolled in community colleges across the country (see table SA-4).6 This figure represented a slight decline from their peak enrollment of almost 6.3 million students in fall 2002, but a 741 percent increase from fall 1963, when community colleges enrolled 739,811 students (see figure 4). In comparison, over this period, the enrollment for public 4-year colleges and universities increased by 197 percent, while the enrollment for private 4-year colleges and universities increased by 170 percent. As a result of the greater growth in enrollment for community colleges over this period, the difference in total enrollment between community colleges and public 4-year colleges and universities shrunk. In fall 1968, public 4-year colleges and universities enrolled over 2.1 million more students than community colleges. By fall 2002, this difference had decreased to 211,233 students; however, by fall 2006, the difference had increased to 729,893 students.

Examining growth more recently, between fall 2000 and fall 2006, enrollments at community colleges increased by 9 percent, which was less than the increases at public 4-year institutions (by 15 percent) and at private 4-year institutions (by 30 percent) (see table SA-4). Between the most recent years for which fall enrollment data are available, 2005 and 2006, the enrollment at community colleges increased by 1 percent, while enrollments increased by 2 percent at public 4-year institutions and by 3 percent at private 4-year institutions.

Since the early 1970s, more than half of community college enrollments have been part-time students, a percentage generally at least twice that at public and private 4-year colleges and universities (U.S. Department of Education 2008b, table 187). In fall 2006, about 62 percent of community college students were enrolled part time compared with 27 percent of students at public 4-year colleges and universities and 25 percent of students at private 4-year colleges and universities.

Community colleges frequently enroll relatively large percentages of minority students compared with public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions. In fall 2005, 19 percent of community colleges had minority enrollments that were 50 percent or more of their total enrollment compared with 15 percent of public 4-year institutions and 10 percent of private not-for-profit 4-year institutions. However, a higher percentage of private for-profit 2-year and 4-year institutions had minority enrollments that were 50 percent or more of their total enrollment (38 and 34 percent, respectively) than community colleges (U.S. Department of Education 2008b, table 220). Community colleges with enrollments of 25 percent or more of Hispanic students may be eligible to participate in programs for Hispanic Serving Institutions. In addition, 11 community colleges are Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 17 community colleges are tribally controlled (U.S. Department of Education 2008b, tables 231 and 229).


6 Enrollment data for all years do not include students who were only enrolled in noncredit courses. All enrollment data discussed are based on reports of fall enrollment, not enrollment counts over the course of the academic year. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 4: Total fall enrollment in degree–granting institutions, by control and type of institution: 1963 through 2006

Table SA-4: Total fall enrollment in degree–granting institutions, by control and type of institution: 1963 through 2006

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education