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Projections of Education Statistics to 2011
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Chapter 2
Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions


Overall enrollment in degree-granting institutions* is expected to rise between 1999 and the year 2011. Changes in age-specific enrollment rates and college-age populations will affect enrollment levels over the next 12 years (figures 13 and 14). The most important factor in the projected rise of college enrollment is the projected increase of 17 percent in the traditional college-age population of 18- to 24-year-olds from 1999 to 2011 (appendix table B4). The 25- to 29-year-old population is projected to decrease by 5 percent between 1999 and 2002, and then increase by 15 percent between 2002 and 2011, for a net increase of 10 percent. The 30- to 34-year-old population will decrease by 8 percent between 1999 and 2007 and then increase 8 percent by 2011. The 35- to 44-year-old population will remain stable between 1999 and 2000, and then decrease by 13 percent between 2000 and 2011. The increases in the younger population are expected to more than offset the loss of students from the older populations, thereby contributing to the increases in college enrollment over the projection period. The enrollment projections do not take into account such factors as the cost of a college education, the economic value of an education, and the impact of distance learning due to technological changes. These factors may produce changes in enrollment levels. Projections of college enrollment that have been produced over the past 6 years are more accurate than projections of doctor's degrees, but less accurate than projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment that NCES has published over the same time period. For more information, see table A2.

Total College Enrollment

College enrollment increased from 12.5 million in 1986 to 14.5 million in 1992. Then it decreased to 14.3 million in 1993 and remained fairly stable through 1995. Thereafter, it increased to 14.8 million in 1999 (table 10 and figure 15). Under the middle alternative, college enrollment is projected to rise to 17.7 million by the year 2011, an increase of 20 percent from 1999.

Under the low alternative, college enrollment is projected to increase from 14.8 million in 1999 to 17.2 million by the year 2011, an increase of 16 percent over the projection period.

Under the high alternative, college enrollment is expected to increase from 14.8 million in 1999 to 18.2 million by the year 2011, an increase of 23 percent over the projection period.

Enrollment, by Sex of Student

Women played a major role in the increase of enrollment between 1986 and 1999. The enrollment of women in college increased from 6.6 million in 1986 to 8.3 million in 1999, a 25-percent increase over the period (figure 17). Under the middle alternative, enrollment of women is expected to increase to 10.3 million by the year 2011, an increase of 24 percent from 1999. As a share of total college enrollment, women were 56 percent of all college students in 1999 compared with 53 percent in 1986. Women's share of college enrollment will be 58 percent in the year 2011.

The enrollment of men in college increased from 5.9 million in 1986 to 6.5 million in 1992, before decreasing to 6.3 million in 1995. Thereafter, it increased to 6.5 million in 1999. Under the middle alternative, enrollment of men is expected to increase to 7.4 million by the year 2011, a 14-percent increase from 1999.

Enrollment, by Attendance Status

Full-time enrollment increased from 7.1 million in 1986 to 8.8 million in 1999 (figure 19). This is an increase of 23 percent over the period. Under the middle alternative, full-time enrollment is expected to increase another 22 percent to 10.7 million by the year 2011.

Part-time enrollment increased from 5.4 million in 1986 to 6.0 million in 1999, an increase of 12 percent over the period. Under the middle alternative, part-time enrollment is expected to increase to 6.9 million by the year 2011, an increase of 16 percent over the projection period.

Enrollment, by Age

The alternative projections of higher education enrollment by age, sex, and attendance status are shown in tables 11A and 11B (middle alternative), table 12 (low alternative), and table 13 (high alternative). Projections of college attendance rates appear in appendix table A1.1. These projections are based on age-specific enrollment data from the Bureau of the Census and enrollment data from NCES.

Under the middle alternative, the period from 1991 to 2011 will be one of change in the age distribution of college students. In contrast to recent patterns, younger students are expected to become more prevalent on college campuses. The enrollment of students who are 18- to 24-years old increased from 8.1 million in 1991 to 8.8 million in 1999, an increase of 9 percent (tables 11A and 11B and figure 31). This number is expected to increase to 10.8 million by the year 2011, an increase of 22 percent from 1999. As a result, the proportion of students who are 18- to 24-years old, which increased from 56 percent in 1991 to 60 percent in 1999, is projected to be 61 percent by the year 2011.

The enrollment of students who are 25 years and over decreased from 6.1 million in 1991 to an estimated 5.8 million in 1999, a decrease of 5 percent. This number is projected to be 6.7 million in 2011, an increase of 15 percent. The proportion of students 25 years old and over decreased from 43 percent in 1991 to 39 percent in 1999. This proportion is projected to be 38 percent by the year 2011.

Enrollment, by Control of Institution

Enrollment in public institutions grew from 9.7 million in 1986 to 11.4 million in 1992, and then decreased to 11.1 million in 1995 followed by a rise to 11.3 million in 1999, for a net increase of 16 percent over the period (figure 21). Under the middle alternative, public enrollment is expected to increase to 13.6 million by 2011, an increase of 20 percent over the projection period.

Enrollment in private institutions, which include not-for-profit and for-profit institutions, increased from 2.8 million in 1986 to 3.5 million in 1999, an increase of 25 percent over the period. Under the middle alternative, private enrollment is expected to increase to 4.1 million by 2011, an increase of 18 percent over the projection period.

Enrollment, by Type and Control of Institution

Enrollment in public 4-year institutions increased from 5.3 million in 1986 to 6.0 million in 1999, an increase of 13 percent increase over the period (table 15). Under the middle alternative, this enrollment is expected to rise to 7.3 million by the year 2011, a 21-percent increase over the projection period.

Enrollment in public 2-year institutions rose from 4.4 million in 1986 to 5.3 million in 1999, an increase of 21 percent over the period (table 16). Under the middle alternative, enrollment in public 2-year institutions is expected to rise to 6.3 million by the year 2011, an 18-percent increase over the projection period.

Enrollment in private 4-year institutions increased from 2.5 million in 1986 to 3.2 million in 1999, an increase of 28 percent increase over the period (table 17). Under the middle alternative, this enrollment is expected to rise to 3.8 million by the year 2011, an 18-percent increase over the projection period.

Enrollment in private 2-year institutions decreased from 266,000 in 1986 to 253,000 in 1999, a decrease of 5 percent over the period (table 18). Under the middle alternative, enrollment in private 2-year institutions is expected to rise to 305,000 by the year 2011, a 21-percent increase over the projection period.

Enrollment, by Level

Undergraduate enrollment increased from 10.8 million in 1986 to 12.7 million in 1999, a 17-percent increase over the period (table 19 and figure 25). Under the middle alternative, undergraduate enrollment is expected to increase to 15.3 million by the year 2011, a 21-percent increase over the projection period.

Graduate enrollment rose from 1.4 million in 1986 to 1.8 million in 1999, a 26-percent increase over the period (table 20 and figure 27). Under the middle alternative, graduate enrollment is expected to increase to 2.0 million by the year 2011, a 13-percent increase over the projection period.

First-professional enrollment increased from 270,000 in 1986 to 303,000 in 1999, a 12-percent increase over the period (table 21 and figure 27). Under the middle alternative, first-professional enrollment is expected to increase to 342,000 by 2011. This represents a 13-percent increase from 1999.

Full-Time-Equivalent Enrollment

Full-time-equivalent enrollment increased from 9.1 million in 1986 to 10.9 million in 1999, a 21-percent increase over the period (table 22 and figure 29). Under the middle alternative, full-time-equivalent enrollment is expected to increase to 13.2 million by the year 2011, a 21-percent increase over the projection period.

Alternative Projections

College enrollment projections were based on projected enrollment rates, by age and sex, which were then applied to population projections by age and sex developed by the Bureau of the Census. The middle series population projections, which assume middle fertility and yearly net migration, were used.

Three sets of projections are presented for enrollment in degree-granting institutions to indicate a range of possible outcomes. Each set of projections is based on alternative assumptions. The middle alternative is based on the base scenario of the economy developed by the company, DRI*WEFA, Inc., for the projections of disposable income and unemployment rates. Under the middle alternative, the higher education enrollment model interprets the college enrollment decision as a static, short-term economic decision, i.e., potential consumers for higher education weigh the economic costs before making a decision to study or work. Thus the model assumes that a representative student gives greater importance to current earnings potential over lifetime earning potential. The model has two explanatory variables, the unemployment rate and real disposable income. The unemployment rate serves as a proxy for the attractiveness of the current working environment. A weak labor market increases the attractiveness of a college education. Real disposable income captures a student's ability to afford the costs of attending college. These relationships are assumed through 2011. For more information, see appendix A, section A.1.

The low and high alternatives incorporate past errors of projections of college enrollment to provide other possible outcomes.

Footnotes

* This term applies mainly to those institutions that provide study beyond secondary school and that offer programs terminating in an associate, baccalaureate, or higher degree.

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