Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Indicators

Undergraduate Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2015)

Total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions was 17.5 million students in fall 2013, an increase of 46 percent from 1990, when it was 12.0 million students. By 2024, total undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase to 19.6 million students.

In fall 2013, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions was 17.5 million students, an increase of 46 percent from 1990, when enrollment was 12.0 million students. While total undergraduate enrollment increased by 37 percent between 2000 and 2010, enrollment in 2013 was 3 percent lower than in 2010. Undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase from 17.5 million to 19.6 million students between 2013 and 2024.


Figure 1. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex:
Fall 1990–2024

Figure 1. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 1990–2024

NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Projections are based on data through 2013. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 303.70.


In fall 2013, female students made up 56 percent of total undergraduate enrollment at 9.8 million and male students made up 44 percent at 7.7 million. Enrollment for both groups increased between 1990 and 2013, but most of the increases occurred between 2000 and 2010, when female enrollment increased by 39 percent and male enrollment increased by 36 percent. However, both female and male enrollments were lower (4 percent and 2 percent, respectively) in 2013 than in 2010. Between 2013 and 2024, female enrollment is projected to increase by 15 percent (from 9.8 million to 11.3 million students), and male enrollment is projected to increase by 9 percent (from 7.7 million to 8.3 million students).


Figure 2. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 1990–2013

Figure 2. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 1990–2013

NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Prior to 2010, separate data on Asians were not available. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Data for 1999 were imputed using alternative procedures. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 306.10.


Of the 17.5 million undergraduate students in fall 2013, some 9.9 million were White, 2.9 million were Hispanic, 2.5 million were Black, 1.0 million were Asian, 0.1 million were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.1 million were Pacific Islander. Between 1990 and 2013, Hispanic enrollment nearly quadrupled (from 0.7 million to 2.9 million students) and Black enrollment more than doubled (from 1.1 million to 2.5 million students), while White enrollment increased 7 percent (from 9.3 million to 9.9 million students). However, the number of undergraduate students was lower in 2013 than in 2010 for most groups; the exception was Hispanic students, whose enrollment increased by 13 percent during this period.


Figure 3. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 1990–2024

Figure 3. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 1990–2024

NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Projections are based on data through 2013. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 303.70.


In fall 2013, there were 10.9 million full-time and 6.5 million part-time undergraduate students. Enrollment for both full- and part-time students has generally increased since 1990, particularly between 2000 and 2010, when full-time enrollment increased by 45 percent and part-time enrollment increased by 27 percent. Full-time enrollment was 5 percent lower in 2013 than in 2010, and part-time enrollment was 1 percent lower in 2013 than in 2010. Between 2013 and 2024, however, full-time enrollment is projected to increase by 13 percent (from 10.9 million to 12.3 million students) and part-time enrollment is projected to increase by 12 percent (from 6.5 million to 7.3 million students).


Figure 4. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 1990–2013

Figure 4. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 1990–2013

NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90-99); and IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 303.70.


The increase in undergraduate enrollment from fall 1990 to fall 2013 occurred at a faster rate at private for-profit institutions (565 percent) than at public institutions (37 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (35 percent), although in 1990 undergraduate enrollment at private for-profit institutions was relatively small, at 0.2 million students, compared with 9.7 million at public institutions and 2.0 million at private nonprofit institutions. Most of this growth at private for-profit institutions occurred between 2000 and 2010, when enrollment quadrupled (from 0.4 million to 1.7 million students); in comparison, enrollments increased by 30 percent at public institutions (from 10.5 million to 13.7 million students) and by 20 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 2.2 million to 2.7 million students) during this period. More recently, the pattern of enrollment at private for-profit institutions has changed. Enrollment at private for-profit institutions in 2013 (1.4 million students) was 21 percent lower than in 2010; enrollment at public institutions (13.3 million students) was 3 percent lower, while enrollment at private nonprofit institutions (2.8 million students) was 4 percent higher.


Figure 5. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of institution: Fall 1990–2024

Figure 5. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of institution: Fall 1990–2024

NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Projections are based on data through 2013. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 303.70.


In fall 2013, the 10.5 million students at 4-year institutions made up 60 percent of undergraduate enrollment; the remaining 40 percent consisted of the 7.0 million students who were enrolled at 2-year institutions. Between 2000 and 2010, private for-profit 4-year institutions had the highest percentage increase in undergraduate enrollment among all types of institutions (514 percent), and private for-profit 2-year institutions had the second largest increase (125 percent). Enrollment increased by 34 percent at public 4-year institutions, by 27 percent at public 2-year institutions, and by 22 percent at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. In contrast, enrollment at private nonprofit 2-year institutions decreased by 44 percent during the same period. At 4-year institutions, enrollments increased by 4 percent between 2010 and 2013 at both public and private nonprofit institutions, while enrollment at private for-profit institutions decreased by 18 percent. Enrollments at 2-year institutions were 28 percent lower at private for-profit institutions, 8 percent lower at public institutions, and 1 percent lower at private nonprofit institutions in 2013 than in 2010. Between 2013 and 2024, enrollment at 2-year institutions is projected to increase by 15 percent, to 8.0 million students, while enrollment at 4-year institutions is projected to increase by 11 percent, to 11.6 million students.


Figure 6. Percentage of undergraduate students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions who participated exclusively in distance education courses, by control and level of institution: Fall 2013

Figure 6. Percentage of undergraduate students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions who participated exclusively in distance education courses, by control and level of institution: Fall 2013

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2014, Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 311.15.


Distance education1 courses and programs provide students with flexible learning opportunities. In fall 2013, about 4.6 million undergraduate students participated in distance education, with 2.0 million students (11 percent of total undergraduate enrollment) exclusively taking distance education courses. Of the 2.0 million undergraduate students who exclusively took distance education courses, 1.1 million students (6 percent of total undergraduate enrollment) were enrolled in programs located in the same state in which they resided, and 0.8 million (4 percent of total undergraduate enrollment) were enrolled in a different state.

The percentage of undergraduate students participating exclusively in distance education programs differed by institutional control. In fall 2013, a higher percentage of students at private for-profit institutions (46 percent) exclusively took distance education courses than did students at private nonprofit institutions (11 percent) and public institutions (8 percent). In particular, a higher percentage of students at private for-profit 4-year institutions exclusively took distance education courses (58 percent) than did students at any other control and level of institution (percentages at these institutions ranged from 11 percent at private nonprofit 4-year institutions to 2 percent at private nonprofit 2-year institutions).


1 Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.


Glossary terms: For-profit institution, Full-time enrollment, Higher education institutions, Nonprofit institution, Part-time enrollment, Private institution, Public school or institution, Undergraduate students
Data Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)


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