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Undergraduate Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2016)

Total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased 31 percent from 13.2 million in 2000 to 17.3 million in 2014. By 2025, total undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase to 19.8 million students.

In fall 2014, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions was 17.3 million students, an increase of 31 percent from 2000, when enrollment was 13.2 million students. While total undergraduate enrollment increased by 37 percent between 2000 and 2010, enrollment decreased by 4 percent between 2010 and 2014. Undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase 14 percent from 17.3 million to 19.8 million students between 2014 and 2025.


Figure 1. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2000–2025

Figure 1. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2000–2025


NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Projections are based on data through 2014. 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), Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions Projection Model, 1980 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.70.


In fall 2014, female students made up 56 percent of total undergraduate enrollment at 9.7 million, and male students made up 44 percent at 7.6 million. Between 2000 and 2014, enrollment for both groups showed similar patterns of change. During this period, female enrollment increased by 32 percent and male enrollment increased by 31 percent. Most of the increases occurred between 2005 and 2010, when female enrollment increased by 20 percent and male enrollment increased by 22 percent. However, between 2010 and 2014 both female and male enrollments decreased (by 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively). Between 2014 and 2025, female enrollment is projected to increase by 17 percent (from 9.7 million to 11.3 million students), and male enrollment is projected to increase by 11 percent (from 7.6 million to 8.4 million students).


Figure 2. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2000–2014

Figure 2. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2000–2014


NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Prior to 2010, separate data on Asian and Pacific Islander students were not available. Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. 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), Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 306.10.


Of the 17.3 million undergraduate students in fall 2014, some 9.6 million were White, 3.0 million were Hispanic, 2.4 million were Black, 1.0 million were Asian, 0.1 million were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.1 million were Pacific Islander. Between 2000 and 2014, Hispanic enrollment more than doubled (a 119 percent increase from 1.4 million to 3.0 million students), Black enrollment increased by 57 percent (from 1.5 million to 2.4 million students), and White enrollment increased by 7 percent (from 9.0 million to 9.6 million students). Despite the general increases, the number of undergraduate students was lower in 2014 than in 2010 for most groups; the exception was Hispanic students, whose enrollment increased by 16 percent during this period.


Figure 3. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2000–2025

Figure 3. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2000–2025


NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Projections are based on data through 2014. 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), Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions Projection Model, 1980 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.70.


In fall 2014, there were 10.8 million full-time and 6.5 million part-time undergraduate students. Enrollment for both full- and part-time students has generally increased since 2000, particularly between 2000 and 2010, when full-time enrollment increased by 45 percent and part-time enrollment increased by 27 percent. However, full-time enrollment was 6 percent lower in 2014 than in 2010, and part-time enrollment was 2 percent lower in 2014 than in 2010. Between 2014 and 2025, full-time enrollment is projected to increase by 14 percent (from 10.8 million to 12.3 million students) and part-time enrollment is projected to increase by 15 percent (from 6.5 million to 7.5 million students).


Figure 4. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2000–2014

Figure 4. Undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2000–2014


NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. 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), IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.70.


The increase in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2000 to fall 2014 occurred at a faster rate at private for-profit institutions (217 percent) than at public institutions (26 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (25 percent), although in 2000 undergraduate enrollment at private for-profit institutions was relatively small, at 0.4 million students. Enrollment at private for-profit institutions quadrupled from 0.4 million to 1.7 million students from 2000 to 2010. In comparison, enrollment 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. After reaching a peak in 2010, enrollment at private for-profit institutions decreased by 26 percent (from 1.7 million to 1.3 million students) between 2010 and 2014. In contrast, enrollment at public institutions decreased by 3 percent (from 13.7 million to 13.2 million students) during this period, while enrollment at private nonprofit institutions increased by 4 percent (from 2.7 million to 2.8 million students).


Figure 5. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of institution: Fall 2000–2025

Figure 5. Actual and projected undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of institution: Fall 2000–2025


NOTE: Data include unclassified undergraduate students. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Projections are based on data through 2014. 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), IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2015, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions Projection Model, 1980 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 303.70.


In fall 2014, the 10.6 million students at 4-year institutions made up 61 percent of undergraduate enrollment; the remaining 39 percent (6.7 million students) were enrolled at 2-year institutions. Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment increased by 44 percent at 4-year institutions and by 29 percent at 2-year institutions. More recently, enrollment patterns have changed. Enrollment was 2 percent higher at 4-year institutions and 13 percent lower at 2-year institutions in 2014 than in 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, public 4-year institutions had the highest percentage increase in undergraduate enrollment (6 percent) among all types of institutions by control and level, and private for-profit 2-year institutions had the highest percentage decrease (34 percent). Between 2014 and 2025, enrollment at 2-year institutions is projected to increase by 21 percent to 8.2 million students, while enrollment at 4-year institutions is projected to increase by 10 percent to 11.6 million students.


Figure 6. Percentage of undergraduate students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions who enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, by control and level of institution: Fall 2014

Figure 6. Percentage of undergraduate students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions who enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, by control and level of institution: Fall 2014


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 their instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors 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 2015, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 311.15.


Distance education1 courses and programs provide students with flexible learning opportunities. In fall 2014, nearly a quarter of undergraduate students (4.8 million) participated in distance education, with 2.1 million students, or 12 percent of total undergraduate enrollment, exclusively taking distance education courses. Of the 2.1 million undergraduate students who exclusively took distance education courses, 1.2 million students were enrolled at institutions located in the same state in which they resided, and 0.8 million were enrolled at institutions in a different state.

The percentage of undergraduate students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses differed by institutional control. In fall 2014, a higher percentage of students at private for-profit institutions (48 percent) exclusively took distance education courses than did students at private nonprofit institutions (13 percent) and public institutions (9 percent). In particular, a higher percentage of students at private for-profit 4-year institutions exclusively took distance education courses (60 percent) than did students at any other control and level of institution. (Percentages at these institutions ranged from 3 percent at private nonprofit 2-year institutions to 13 percent at private nonprofit 4-year institutions.)


1 Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from their instructor as well as to support regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors 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

Data Source

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)