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Chapter 5: Postsecondary Education

This chapter focuses on indicators of participation in postsecondary education, such as the number of students who enroll in 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities and the rate at which they enroll, the percentage of students who receive financial aid and the amount received, and the number of students awarded degrees from colleges and universities by type of degree and field of study.

The immediate college enrollment rate measures the percentage of high school completers (including GED recipients) who enroll in 2- or 4-year colleges in the fall immediately after completing high school. In 2015, the immediate college enrollment rate for Asian high school completers was 87 percent, which was higher than the rates for White, Black, and Hispanic high school completers in 2015 as well as in each year since 2005 (Indicator 18). Also included in this indicator is the total college enrollment rate, which is defined as the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities. The 2015 total college enrollment rate for Asian 18- to 24-year-olds (63 percent) was higher than the rate for their White peers (42 percent), and enrollment rates for both these groups were higher than the rates for their Hispanic (37 percent), Black (35 percent), Pacific Islander (24 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (23 percent) peers.

Between 2000 and 2014, total fall undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased for each racial/ethnic group (Indicator 19). Hispanic student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased from 10 to 18 percent between 2000 and 2014. Black student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased during this time as well, from 12 to 14 percent. White undergraduate enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment decreased between 2000 and 2014, from 70 to 57 percent. Trends in graduate enrollment were similar to those in undergraduate enrollment. Black graduate student enrollment as a percentage of total graduate enrollment increased from 9 to 14 percent, and Hispanic graduate student enrollment as a percentage of total graduate enrollment increased from 6 to 9 percent. White graduate student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment decreased from 77 to 66 percent between 2000 and 2014.

In 2011–12, the percentages of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native (85 percent each) and Hispanic (80 percent) students who received grants were higher than the percentages of students of Two or more races (73 percent), White students (69 percent), Pacific Islander students (67 percent), and Asian students (63 percent) who received grants (Indicator 20). The percentage of full-time, full-year undergraduate students who received loans was highest for Black students. Asian students received a higher average annual amount of grant aid than students of all other racial/ethnic groups, whereas students of Two or more races received a higher average annual amount of loan aid than students of all other racial/ethnic groups except White students.

Indicator 21 presents data on postsecondary graduation rates. The 6-year graduation rate in 2014 was 60 percent for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution. The 6-year graduation rate was highest for Asian students and students of Two or more races (71 percent and 65 percent, respectively), and lowest for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students (41 percent each). The 6-year graduation rate was 57 percent for males and 62 percent for females overall; it was also higher for females than for males in each racial/ethnic group except Pacific Islanders for whom rates were practically the same.

Between academic years 2003–04 and 2013–14, the total number of postsecondary degrees awarded increased at all degree levels (Indicator 22). The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanic students more than doubled during this period, and the number awarded to Black students increased by 46 percent. During the same period, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded increased by smaller percentages for Asian/Pacific Islander (43 percent) and White (19 percent) students. In 2013–14, a higher percentage of bachelor's degrees were awarded in the field of business than in any other field across all racial/ethnic groups, ranging from 15 percent for students of Two or more races to 22 percent for Pacific Islander students (Indicator 23). About 17 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded to U.S. citizens in 2013–14 were in STEM fields, but the percentage varied by racial/ethnic group (Indicator 24). For example, the percentage of STEM bachelor's degrees awarded to Asian students (31 percent) was almost double the average awarded to all students.