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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Chapter 6. Postsecondary Education

Indicator 23: College Participation Rate
Indicator 24: Enrollment
      Snapshot: Enrollment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic
      Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges
Indicator 25: Financial Aid
Indicator 26: Degrees Awarded

This chapter focuses on indicators of postsecondary education participation, including 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. About 72 percent of 2008 White high school completers were enrolled in college in that same year, up from 50 percent for White recent high school completers in 1980. In addition, this immediate transition to college rate was higher in 2007 (the latest year for which data are available due to the use of a moving average) than the rate in 1980 for Blacks (56 vs. 44 percent) and for Hispanics (62 vs. 50 percent) (indicator 23.1). Similarly, the overall college participation rate, meaning the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in 2-year or 4-year colleges or universities, was higher in 2008 than it was in 1980 for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. In 2008, 44 percent of White 18- to 24-year-olds (up from 28 percent in 1980), 32 percent of Black 18- to 24-year-olds (up from 20 percent in 1980), and 26 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds (up from 16 percent in 1980) were enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities (indicator 23.2). Although there was no measurable increase in the participation rate of Asians/Pacific Islanders between 1990 and 2008, the rates for Asians/Pacific Islanders have been consistently higher than the rates for the other racial/ethnic groups shown: in 2008, 58 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Asians/Pacific Islanders were enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities.

Between 1976 and 2008, total undergraduate enrollment increased for several racial/ethnic groups (indicator 24.1). The fastest rate of increase was for Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders, and the slowest rate was for Whites. Differences in the rate of increase accounted for shifts in the racial/ethnic distribution of students enrolled. For example, in 1976, Hispanics accounted for 4 percent of total undergraduate enrollment; in 2008, Hispanics accounted for 13 percent of enrollment.

In 2008, females made up 57 percent of undergraduate enrollment. The difference between male and female enrollments was largest for Black students, with females accounting for 64 percent of Black undergraduate enrollment in 2008.

Trends in graduate enrollments were similar to those in undergraduate enrollment, with enrollment of Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders each increasing five- and six-fold, respectively, between 1976 and 2008 (indicator 24.2). As with undergraduate enrollment, female graduate enrollment exceeded male graduate enrollment for all racial/ethnic groups, with the largest difference being between Black males and Black females. By 2008, some 71 percent of Black graduate students were female.

In terms of undergraduate enrollment by institution type, Black students had the highest percentage (15 percent) attending private, for-profit schools, and nearly half of Hispanic students attended 2-year public institutions (indicator 24.3).

In 200708, some 80 percent of full-time, full-year undergraduate students received some financial aid. A higher percentage of Black undergraduate students received financial aid than did White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander undergraduates. Black students also received higher average amounts of aid ($13,500) in 200708 than White, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native students. Hispanics had a lower average amount of aid than White and Asian/Pacific Islander students (indicator 25).

Over 3 million degrees were awarded by colleges and universities in 2008, of which 51 percent were bachelor's degrees. Within each racial/ethnic group, more females than males received degrees. Over twice as many Black females received degrees as Black males (indicator 26.1). Business was the most popular field of study for recipients of bachelor's degrees in 2008 for all racial/ethnic groups. Of all racial/ethnic groups, Blacks had the highest percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded in business (25 percent) and the lowest percentage of degrees awarded in engineering and engineering technologies (indicator 26.2). Asian recipients of master's degrees had a higher percentage awarded in engineering and engineering technologies, computer and information sciences and support services, and biological and biomedical sciences than any other racial/ethnic group.