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Enrollment

Question:
Do you have information on postsecondary enrollment rates?

Response:

Fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased 24 percent between 1996 and 2006. Fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions was 12 percent higher in 2016 (19.8 million) than in 2006 (17.8 million). The overall increase between 2006 and 2016 reflects an increase of 18 percent between 2006 and 2010, followed by a decrease of 6 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Similarly, the number of full-time students rose 19 percent from 2006 to 2010, and then fell 7 percent from 2010 to 2016. The number of part-time students rose 18 percent from 2006 to 2011, and then fell 4 percent from 2011 to 2016, for an overall increase of 13 percent between 2006 and 2016.

The number of female students was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 2006, while the number of male students was 14 percent higher. Although male enrollment increased by a larger percentage than female enrollment between 2006 and 2016, the majority (56 percent) of students in 2016 were female. Male and female enrollments were both higher in 2016 than in 2006, but there were increases during the first part of this period followed by smaller decreases during the most recent part of the period (a decrease of 5 percent for males from 2010 to 2016 and a decrease of 6 percent for females).

In addition to enrollment in degree-granting institutions, about 383,000 students attended non-degree-granting, Title IV eligible, postsecondary institutions in fall 2016. These institutions are postsecondary institutions that do not award associate’s or higher degrees; they include, for example, institutions that offer only career and technical programs of less than 2 years’ duration.

Like enrollment in degree-granting institutions for the United States as a whole, the number of students enrolled in degree-granting institutions located within individual states generally has been lower in recent years. Overall, fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions declined 6 percent between 2011 and 2016. Similarly, fall 2016 enrollment was lower than fall 2011 enrollment in the majority of states (44).

Between fall 2006 and fall 2016, the percentage increase in the number of students enrolled in degree-granting institutions was higher for students under age 25 than for older students; and this pattern is expected to continue in the coming years. The enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 13 percent from 2006 to 2016, while the enrollment of those age 25 and over was 11 percent higher in 2016 than in 2006. From 2016 to 2027, NCES projects the increase for students under age 25 to be 5 percent, compared with 1 percent for students age 25 and over.

Enrollment trends have differed at the undergraduate and postbaccalaureate levels. Undergraduate enrollment increased 47 percent between fall 1970 and fall 1983, when it reached 10.8 million. Undergraduate enrollment dipped to 10.6 million in 1984 and 1985, but then increased each year from 1985 to 1992, rising 18 percent before stabilizing between 1992 and 1998. Undergraduate enrollment was 11 percent higher in 2016 (16.9 million) than in 2006 (15.2 million). This overall change reflects a 19 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment between 2006 and 2010 (when undergraduate enrollment reached 18.1 million), followed by a 7 percent decrease between 2010 and 2016. Postbaccalaureate enrollment increased 34 percent between 1970 and 1984, with most of this increase occurring in the early and mid-1970s. Postbaccalaureate enrollment increased from 1985 to 2016, rising a total of 80 percent. During the last decade of this period, between 2006 and 2016, postbaccalaureate enrollment rose 15 percent, from 2.6 million to 3.0 million. Unlike undergraduate enrollment, which was lower in 2016 than in 2010, postbaccalaureate enrollment was higher in 2016 than in 2010.

Since fall 1988, the number of female students in postbaccalaureate programs has exceeded the number of male students. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of full-time male postbaccalaureate students increased by 22 percent, compared with a 23 percent increase in the number of full-time female postbaccalaureate students. Among part-time postbaccalaureate students, the number of males enrolled in 2016 was 6 percent higher than in 2006, while the number of females was 8 percent higher.

The percentage of American college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black has been increasing. From fall 1976 to fall 2016, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 4 percent to 18 percent of all U.S. residents enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, and the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 7 percent. The percentage of Black students increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 14 percent in 2016, but the 2016 percentage reflects a decrease since 2011, when Black students made up 15 percent of all enrolled U.S. residents. The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students was higher in 2016 (0.8 percent) than in 1976 (0.7 percent). During the same period, the percentage of White students fell from 84 percent to 57 percent. About 4 percent of students in 2016 were of Two or more races. Race/ethnicity is not reported for nonresident aliens, who made up 5 percent of total enrollment in 2016.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics, 2017 (NCES 2018-070), Chapter 3.

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