Skip Navigation
Projections of Education Statistics to 2021

NCES 2013-008
January 2013

Section 5. Enrollment in Postsecondary Degree-Granting Institutions: Introduction

Total enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions is expected to increase 15 percent between fall 2010, the last year of actual data, and fall 2021 (table 20). Degree-granting institutions are postsecondary institutions that provide study beyond secondary school and offer programs terminating in an associate's, baccalaureate, or higher degree and participate in federal financial aid programs. Differential growth is expected by student characteristics such as age, sex, and attendance status (part- time or full-time). Enrollment is expected to increase in both public and private postsecondary degree-granting institutions.

Figure 15. Actual and projected population numbers for 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 29-year-olds: 1996 through 2021

Figure 15. 	Actual and projected population numbers for 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 29-year-olds: 1996 through 2021

NOTE: Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Projections are from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 National Population Projections, ratio-adjusted to line up with the most recent historical estimate. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Population Estimates, retrieved October 16, 2011, from popest/data/index.html; and 2008 National Population Projections, retrieved November 2, 2008, from projections/2008projections.html. (This figure was prepared March 2012.)

Factors affecting the projections

The projections of enrollment levels are related to projec- tions of college-age populations, disposable income, and unemployment rates. For more details, see appendixes A.0 and A.5. An important factor in the enrollment projections is the expected increase in the population of 25- to 29-year- olds (table B-4 in appendix B).

Factors that were not considered

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. The racial/ethnic backgrounds of nonresident aliens are not known.

Accuracy of Projections

For projections of total enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions, an analysis of projection errors based on the past 14 editions of Projections of Education Statistics indicates that the mean absolute percentage errors (MAPEs) for lead times of 1, 2, 5, and 10 years out were 1.7, 2.6, 5.3, and 13.1 percent, respectively. For the 1-year-out prediction, this means that one would expect the projection to be within 1.7 percent of the actual value, on average. For more information, see table A-2 in appendix A.