Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

2011 Spotlight

A Closer Look at Postsecondary Education by Institution Level and Control

Enrollment and Degrees Conferred

The past three decades have experienced growth in postsecondary enrollments, primarily in the public sector, and most recently, in the private for-profit sector as well. Between 1980 and 1990, undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting institutions grew from 10.5 to 12.0 million students, an increase of 1.5 million students (see table A-8-2). Eighty-five percent of this increase (representing 1.3 million students) occurred at public institutions; 8 percent, at private not-for-profit institutions; and 7 percent, at private for-profit institutions. Between 1990 and 2000, undergraduate enrollment increased by 1.2 million students; 69 percent of this increase occurred at public institutions; 14 percent, at private not-for-profit institutions; and 16 percent, at private for-profit institutions. The greatest increase was seen in the most recent decade: from 2000 to 2009, undergraduate enrollment at degree-granting institutions increased by 4.4 million students. Of this increase, 65 percent occurred at public institutions, 9 percent at private not-for-profit institutions, and 27 percent (representing 1.2 million students) at private for-profit institutions. Undergraduate enrollment at private for-profit 4-year institutions increased from 23,000 students in 1980 to 1.2 million students in 2009. During the same period, undergraduate enrollment at private for-profit 2-year institutions increased from 0.1 million to 0.4 million students.

The changes in enrollment numbers are similar to the changes in the number of degrees conferred: the number of undergraduate degrees has increased in the last decade, and changes in the percentage distribution of degrees conferred have differed depending on institution control. Between 1998–99 and 2008–09, there was a 41 percent increase in the number of associate’s degrees conferred and a 33 percent increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred (see tables CL-1 and A-42-1).

Although most associate’s degrees (76 percent in 2008–09) are conferred by public institutions, this percentage has decreased since 1998–99, when 80 percent of associate’s degrees were conferred by public institutions; the percentage conferred by private for-profit institutions has increased from 11 to 18 percent over the same period. In 2008–09, degree-granting institutions conferred 787,300 associate’s degrees, an increase of 227,400 from the number conferred in 1998–99. Of the additional 227,400 degrees, approximately two-thirds were conferred by public institutions and about one-third were conferred by private for-profit institutions. (Private not-for-profit institutions conferred slightly fewer associate’s degrees in 2008–09 than they did in 1998–99.)

At the bachelor’s level, the number of degrees conferred by private for-profit institutions more than quadrupled from 1998–99 to 2008–09, from about 16,000 to 85,000. In 1998–99, some 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees were conferred by public institutions, compared with 33 percent conferred by private not-for-profit institutions and about 1 percent conferred by private for-profit institutions. By 2008–09, the distribution had changed somewhat: 64 percent of bachelor’s degrees were conferred by public institutions; 31 percent by private not-for-profit institutions; and 5 percent by private for-profit institutions.

Table CL-1. Number of degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions and percent change, by control of institution and level of degree: Academic years 1998–99 and 2008–09

Level of degree and academic year Total Public Private
Total Not-for-profit For-profit
Associate's
1998–99 559,954 448,334 111,620 47,611 64,009
2008–09 787,325 596,098 191,227 46,929 144,298
Percent change 40.6 33.0 71.3 -1.4 125.4
           
1998–99 1,200,303 790,287 410,016 393,680 16,336
2008–09 1,601,368 1,020,435 580,933 496,260 84,673
Percent change 33.4 29.1 41.7 26.1 418.3
           
1998–99 439,986 238,501 201,485 192,152 9,333
2008–09 656,784 308,206 348,578 285,098 63,480
Percent change 49.3 29.2 73.0 48.4 580.2
           
1998–99 78,439 31,693 46,746 46,315 431
2008–09 92,004 37,357 54,647 53,572 1,075
Percent change 17.3 17.9 16.9 15.7 149.4
           
1998–99 44,077 28,134 15,943 15,501 442
2008–09 67,716 39,911 27,805 25,169 2,636
Percent change 53.6 41.9 74.4 62.4 496.4
NOTE: Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. For more information on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and IPEDS classification of institutions, see supplemental notes 3 and 8. See the glossary for definitions of first-professional degree and doctoral degree.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1998–99 and 2008–09 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Completions Survey" (IPEDS-C:99) and Fall 2009.

Of the 17.6 million undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting institutions in fall 2009, some 36 percent attended public 4-year institutions, 40 percent attended public 2-year institutions, 15 percent attended private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, less than 1 percent attended private not-for-profit 2-year institutions, 7 percent attended private for-profit 4-year institutions, and 2 percent attended private for-profit 2-year institutions, (see table A-39-1). This pattern varied by race/ethnicity. For example, 38 percent of White students attended public 2-year institutions, compared with 40 percent of Black students, 42 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students, 45 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 52 percent of Hispanic students. In addition, 17 percent of Black undergraduate students attended private for-profit institutions in 2009, compared with 10 percent of Hispanic students, 9 percent of nonresident alien students, 7 percent of White students, and 5 percent (each) of Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

Forty-four percent of full-time undergraduate students who enrolled in degree-granting institutions in fall 2009 attended public 4-year institutions, while 26 percent attended public 2-year institutions, 19 percent attended private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, less than one percent attended private not-for-profit 2-year institutions, 8 percent attended private for-profit 4-year institutions, and 3 percent attended private for-profit 2-year institutions (see figure CL-1). However, 30 percent of full-time students ages 35 and over attended private for-profit 4-year institutions, compared with 3 percent of full-time students under the age of 25. In 2009, some 66 percent of part-time undergraduate students enrolled in public 2-year institutions, 22 percent enrolled in public 4-year institutions, 7 percent enrolled in private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, and 5 percent enrolled in private for-profit 4-year institutions (less than one percent each enrolled in private not-for-profit and private for-profit 2-year institutions). Some 70 percent of part-time students under the age of 25 enrolled in public 2-year institutions, compared with 24 percent of full-time students under the age of 25.

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education