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

Indicator 23. College Participation Rates

23.1. Immediate Transition to College Rate

The immediate college enrollment rate is defined as the percentage of high school completers24 of a given year who enroll in 2- or 4-year colleges in the fall immediately after completing high school. In 2008, this rate was 69 percent, up from 49 percent in 1980.

In 1980, the immediate transition to college rate was higher for White high school completers (50 percent) than it was for Black high school completers (44 percent), but was not measurably different than the rate for Hispanic high school completers (50 percent).25 Although the immediate transition to college rate increased for each of these racial and ethnic groups between 1980 and 2007 (and to 2008 for Whites), the rates for Blacks and Hispanics have been lower than the rate for their White peers for almost all years shown since 1985. Between 1980 and 2008, the rate increased from 50 percent to 72 percent for Whites; and between 1980 and 2007, the rate increased from 44 percent to 56 percent for Blacks and from 50 percent to 62 percent for Hispanics.   

View Table View Table 23.1
View Table View Figure 23.1

23.2. College Participation Rate

The college participation rate is the percentage of all 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in 2-year and 4-year colleges or universities, including both undergraduate and graduate studies. This measure accounts for population growth within the demographic group.

The overall college participation rate has increased over the past 27 years. In 1980, some 28 percent of White 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges and universities, compared with 44 percent in 2008—an increase of 17 percentage points. The college participation rates of Blacks and Hispanics also increased. In 2008, approximately 32 percent of Black 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges or universities (an increase of 12 percentage points from 1980) and 26 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled (an increase of 10 percentage points from 1980). No measurable differences were found between 1990 and 2008 in the participation rates of Asians/Pacific Islanders or American Indians/Alaska Natives (data were not available for 1980). The apparent increase in the participation rate of American Indians/Alaska Natives was not statistically significant, in part due to large standard errors.

Although there was no measurable increase in the participation rate of Asians/Pacific Islanders between 1990 and 2008, the participation rates of Asians/Pacific Islanders have been consistently higher than the rates of the other racial/ethnic groups shown. For example, in 2008, 58 percent of all 18- to 24-year old Asians/Pacific Islanders were enrolled in colleges and universities, and this rate was higher than each of the rates of the other races/ethnicities shown (ranging from 22 to 44 percent).

Participation rates also differed for males and females in 2008. Hispanic females had a participation rate of 29 percent, compared to a rate of 23 percent for Hispanic males. In addition, Black females had a higher participation rate (34 percent) than their male counterparts (30 percent). White females also enrolled at a higher rate (47 percent) than White males (42 percent). No measurable differences were detected between the sexes in the participation rates of Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives, in part due to high standard errors.

View Table View Table 23.2
View Table View Figure 23.2


24 Includes high school completers ages 16–24, who accounted for about 98 percent of all high school completers in a given year. Before 1992, high school completer referred to those who had completed 12 years of schooling. Beginning in 1992, high school completer has referred to those who have received a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.

24 For this indicator, moving averages are reported for Blacks and Hispanics due to short-term fluctuations associated with small sample sizes. The moving average is defined here as the average of the annual estimates for the following three adjacent years: the year in question, the year immediately before it, and the year immediately after it. Therefore, 2007 data is the most recent year mentioned for comparisons among races/ethnicities.