Total number of students declines, but minority numbers on the rise

December 12, 2019

The number of students enrolled in all levels of school in 2018 was 76.8 million, a drop of 2.8 percent from the 79 million enrolled in 2011, according to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau. The biggest decrease in enrollment was at two- and four-year colleges. Enrollment in two-year colleges was down from 5.7 million to 4.3 million, a 25-percent drop, while enrollment in four-year colleges was down from 20.4 million to 18.9 million, a 7.6 percent dip over the 2011-2018 period.  The number of graduate-school students is up to 4.3 million, a 300,000 jump from the 2011 total. The number of minority students has increased as well.

“Classrooms are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse,” the report stated, adding the biggest jump is in the total for Hispanic students. The number of Hispanic students was 24 percent of the total student population in 2018, up from 18 percent in 2008. The number of black students has remained consistent, at 15 percent, while the number of Asian students was 6 percent, up from 5 percent.

College enrollment has declined for eight consecutive years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Center. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education there are several reasons for the decline in college enrollment, including the 2008 recession and its lingering effects, reductions in state support, decreasing numbers of high-school graduates, and increased competition for older students. Another Chronicle article, titled The Great Enrollment Crash, stated that the recession “shattered the majority of family wealth and income, and confounded the predictive modeling of enrollment managers.” The decline in the birth rate in this country, coupled with the increased cost of college could mean the eight-year decline in college enrollment will continue.

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