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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

2.7. College enrollment rates

College enrollment rates for both 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 29-year-olds were generally lower in rural areas than in all other locales in 2004. In rural areas, as in the nation as a whole, females enrolled in postsecondary education at a higher rate than males.

In 2004, approximately 34 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges or universities. The college enrollment rate in rural areas (27 percent) was lower than the rate in cities (37 percent), suburban areas (37 percent), or towns (32 percent) (table 2.7).1

A higher percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old females enrolled in a college or university (38 percent) than did their male peers (31 percent). This finding also held true within each locale (figure 2.7). For example, within rural areas, 31 percent of females in this age group were enrolled in postsecondary education, compared with 23 percent of males.

Among 25- to 29-year-olds, 10 percent were enrolled in undergraduate programs and another 5 percent were enrolled in graduate programs (including professional programs) (table 2.7). The undergraduate enrollment rate for this age group was lower in rural areas (8 percent) than in all other locales (10–11 percent). The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds enrolled in graduate programs was also lower in rural areas (3 percent) than in cities (7 percent) and suburban areas (5 percent), but was not measurably different from the percentage in towns.

The enrollment rate for 25- to 29-year-old females was higher than the enrollment rate for their male peers at both the undergraduate level (11 vs. 9 percent) and the graduate level (6 vs. 5 percent). This finding also held true in rural areas, where 9 percent of females and 6 percent of males were enrolled in undergraduate programs, while 3 percent of females and 2 percent of males were enrolled in graduate programs.

1 These data were collected by the American Community Survey (ACS), which asked survey respondents to identify persons who had been living in the household for the past 2 months. ACS did not begin to collect data for group quarters (e.g., students living in dorms on campus) until 2006. Thus, 2004 data for each of the rural, city, suburban, and town locales include independent students living in the locale and dependent students living at home in the locale, but not dependent students in campus dorms in the locale, nor dependent students from the locale who were in campus dorms.