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Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008

NCES 2008-084
September 2008

Enrollment in Colleges and Universities


Enrollment of American Indian/Alaska Native students in colleges and universities more than doubled in the past 30 years. In 2006, American Indian/Alaska Native students accounted for 1 percent of total enrollment in colleges and universities.

Figure 6.1. American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment in public and private degree-granting institutions, by type of institution and sex: Selected years, 1976 through 2006
American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment in public and private degree-granting
institutions, by type of institution and sex: Selected years, 1976 through 2006
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data from 1976 to 1996 are for institutions of higher education that were accredited by an agency or association that was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or recognized directly by the Secretary of Education. Data from 1996 and later years are for degree-granting institutions. The new degreegranting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, except that it includes some additional institutions, primarily 2-year colleges, and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not award associate's or higher degrees. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, based on Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), "Fall Enrollment in Colleges and Universities," 1976 through 1986; and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Fall Enrollment Survey," 1987 through 1999, and Spring 2001 through Spring 2007.

American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment in public and private degree-granting institutions more than doubled between 1976 and 2006.1 In 1976, about 76,100 American Indians/Alaska Natives were enrolled in colleges and universities. Enrollment grew steadily from 1976, reaching 102,800 in 1990 and 151,200 in 2000. Enrollments continued to increase after 2000, and by 2006, 181,100 American Indian/ Alaska Native students were enrolled in higher education (appendix table A-6.1a).

Of American Indian/Alaska Native students enrolled in public and private degree-granting institutions in 2006, more than half were enrolled in 4-year institutions. In contrast, between 1976 and 1994, more American Indians/Alaska Natives were enrolled in 2-year postsecondary institutions than in 4-year postsecondary institutions (appendix table A-6.1a). During the late 1990s, the number of American Indian/Alaska Native students enrolled in 4-year institutions began to surpass the number in 2-year institutions. In 2006, a smaller percentage of American Indians/Alaska Natives between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities than their White and Asian peers. Twenty-six percent of American Indian/Alaska Native 18- to 24-year olds were enrolled in college or universities, compared with 41 percent of Whites, 33 percent of Blacks, 27 percent of Hispanics, and 58 percent of Asians.

American Indians/Alaska Natives comprised 1.1 percent of the total college and university enrollment in 2006, an increase from 0.7 percent in 1976. College and university enrollment became much more diverse over these years. Minorities, including American Indians/ Alaska Natives, represented 16 percent of the total enrollment in 1976, whereas they represented 33 percent of the total enrollment in 2006.

In 2006, a smaller percentage of American Indians/ Alaska Natives between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities than their White and Asian peers. Twenty-six percent of American Indian/Alaska Native 18- to 24-year olds were enrolled in college or universities, compared with 41 percent of Whites, 33 percent of Blacks, 27 percent of Hispanics, and 58 percent of Asians. Although the percentages of American Indians/ Alaska Natives enrolled in colleges or universities appear to fluctuate between 1996 and 2006, the differences in these percentages are not measurably different.

Between 1976 and 2006, college and university enrollment of male and female American Indians/ Alaska Natives grew at different rates. In 1976, there was near parity in the number of American Indian/Alaska Native males and females enrolled in degree-granting colleges and universities (38,500 and 37,600, respectively). By 1978, the number of American Indian/Alaska Native females enrolled in colleges and universities exceeded the number of American Indian/Alaska Native males enrolled. In 2006, 111,000 American Indian/Alaska Native females (61 percent) and 71,200 males (39 percent) were enrolled in colleges and universities, a difference of 21 percentage points. Only among Blacks was there a gender gap larger than that among American Indians/Alaska Natives: 30 percentage points separated the percentages of enrollment for Black females (65 percent) and males (35 percent) in 2006 (appendix table A-6.1b).

View Table View Table 6.1a View Table View Table 6.1b

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1 Data from 1976 to 1996 are for institutions of higher education that were accredited by an agency or association that was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or recognized directly by the Secretary of Education. Data from 1996 and later years are for degree-granting institutions. The new degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, except that it includes some additional institutions, primarily 2-year colleges, and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not award associate's or higher degrees.

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