College Enrollment & Student Demographic Statistics

Report Highlights. College enrollment rates are down 26% since 2010, with 21.8 million students enrolled in postsecondary and postgraduate programs nationwide.

  • At peak enrollment, 29.5 million students attended degree-granting institutions.
  • There are 17.5 million undergraduate students enrolled in American colleges and 4.3 million graduate students.
  • 19.5% of the student population is Hispanic or Latino, a 441.7% increase from 1976.
  • The rate of female college attendance has increased 34.7% since 1960.

Related research reports include Student Loan Debt Statistics | College Graduation Statistics | K-12 Enrollment Statistics | College Dropout Rates | Online Education Statistics

line graph detailing total, undergraduate, and graduate student college enrollment from 1970 to 2018

College Enrollment Statistics

College enrollment statistics indicate that more Americans are forgoing higher education; some may be puting off college attendance to build savings.

  • Enrollment peaked in 2010 at 29.5 million or 6.5% of the total U.S. population.
  • Among adults over 18, college students make up 10.4% of the population.
  • 14.8 million students are enrolled full-time.
  • 74.1% of all college students attend public institutions; 25.9% attend private institutions.
  • 71.1% of all college students attend 4-year institutions; 28.9% attend 2-year institutions.
  • 20.3% of all students graduate annually.
  • 3.2 million high school (or equivalent) graduates begin college in the fall.
  • 69.1% of high school completers attend college in the fall after they graduate.
  • 63.1% of them attend 4-year schools while 36.9% attend 2-year institutions.
  • Among first-time, first-year college students, 82.7% are full-time students.
  • 10.4% of American adults are currently enrolled in college as part-time or full-time students.
  • 8.4% of American adults are enrolled as undergraduates; 2% are postgraduate students.
  • 27% of 4-year institutions had open-admissions policies.
  • Among those accepted, 29% accepted at least 75% of their applicants.
  • 30% accepted more than half of their applicants; 14% accepted less than half of their applicants.
  • 2.3 million students are foreign-born.

A bar graph of college enrollment as a percentage of the total U.S. population from 1970 to 2018, selected years

Enrollment by Degree

College enrollment statistics indicate that, whether they earn their degree or drop out most undergraduate students make one attempt to complete their college education.

  • 16.4 million or 75.1% of college students attend public institutions.
  • 13.8 million or 78.9% of undergraduates attend public institutions; 21.1% attend private institutions.
  • 60% of graduate students attend public institutions; 40% attend private schools.
  • 67.9% of undergraduates are full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) students.
  • Graduate students are 18.8% more likely to take courses online than undergraduate students are.
  • 75% of undergraduates are certificate- or degree-seeking students.
  • First-time, certificate- or degree-seeking undergraduates make up 15% of the student body population.
  • 25% of undergraduates are not seeking a certificate or degree.
  • 4.43 million college students are projected to graduate in 2021.
    • 24.6% will receive associate’s degrees.
    • 49.9% will receive bachelor’s degrees.
    • 20.8% will earn master’s degrees.
    • 4.7% will earn doctorates or professional degrees.
  • 50.8% of all bachelor’s degrees are in 5 fields.
    • 19.1% in business
    • 11.9% in health professions and related studies
    • 8% in social sciences and history
    • 5.9% in psychology
    • 5.9% in biological and biomedical sciences
  • 66% of associates’ degrees conferred are in 3 fields.
    • 36.8% are in general studies and/or humanities
    • 17.7% in health professions and related
    • 11.6% in business

line graph of full-time college students enrolled at fall semester from 1970 to 2018

Statistics indicate that while enrollment rates increased at a more-or-less steady pace for decades, the past 10 years have seen a significant decline in college attendance.

  • College enrollment rates have increased 195% since 1970, when 3.5% of the U.S. population were college students.
  • The rate of enrollment declines by 2.6% annually.
  • 5.5 million full-time students were enrolled in college in 1967.
  • In 2000, 11.3 million full-time students were enrolled.
  • From 1970 to 1979, college enrollment increased at a rate of 2.6% each year.
  • In the ’80s, enrollment increased at a rate of 1.1%, and in the ’90s, it increased 0.99% per year.
  • In the 2000s, college enrollment grew at an annual rate of 3.7%. In the 2010s, however, enrollment rates declined at an annual rate of 0.7%.
  • In 1960, 45.1% of high school completers enrolled in college the following fall.
  • 1.68 million new graduates started as college freshmen that year.
  • In 1970, 5.6 million or 75.7% of all students attended public institutions; today, 74.1% of students are at public schools.

line graph of full-time college student enrollment from 2000 to 2020 by institution type

College enrollment statistics indicate that most students are willing to travel out of their home state for their college education. In most states, residents make up less than 20% of the student population.

  • California has the highest number of enrolled college students at 2.71 million, a 108% increase since 1970.
  • Florida, New York, and Texas are the only other states with more than a million college students enrolled.
  • Alaska has the smallest student population with 25,700 enrolled; that’s a 270% increase since 1970.
  • Wyoming, Montana, and Vermont all have fewer than 50,000 enrolled college students.
  • New Hampshire and Utah have seen the largest increases in enrollment rates since 2010.
  • New Hampshire has seen a 113% increase in enrollment since 2010 and a 448% increase since 1970.
  • Utah has seen a 46.6% increase in college enrollment since 2010 and a 339% increase since 1970.
  • Delaware and Idaho have also seen significant increases in enrollment rates.
  • Iowa and Alaska have seen the largest declines in college enrollment since 2010.
  • Iowa’s enrollment rate declined by 33.4% since 2010, though it has grown 133% since 1970.
  • Alaska’s enrollment rate has declined by 26.6% since 2010, though attendance has risen 171% since 1970.
  • Other states that have seen major losses in postsecondary enrollment include Arizona, Hawaii, and New Mexico.
  • Enrollment statistics indicate that most District of Columbia residents prefer to attend college elsewhere.
  • Puerto Rico colleges retain the highest percentage of residents, followed by Utah.
College Enrollment Trends Among States
StateCollege Enrollment2010 Enrollment2000 Enrollment1970 Enrollment%Change, 1970 to 2010%Change, 2010 to 2020
Alabama304K328K234K104K+215%-7.32%
Alaska25.7K35K28K9.47K+270%-26.6%
Arizona582K794K342K110K+622%-22.3%
Arkansas160K176K115K52K+238%-9.09%
California2.71M2.71M2.26M1.3M+108%0%
Colorado361K369K264K123K+200%-2.17%
Connecticut197K199K161K125K+59.2%-1.01%
Delaware60.7K55.3K43.9K25.3K+119%+9.76%
District of Columbia97.8K92K72.7K77.2K+19.2%+6.3%
Florida1.07M1.12M708K236K+375%-4.46%
Georgia543K569K346K127K+348%-4.57%
Hawaii61.9K78.1K60.2K36.6K+113%-20.7%
Idaho123K85.2K65.6K34.6K+146%+44.4%
Illinois738K907K744K452K+101%-18.6%
Indiana388K459K314K193K+138%-15.5%
Iowa254K382K189K109K+250%-33.4%
Kansas213K215K180K102K+111%-0.93%
Kentucky263K291K188K98.6K+195%-9.62%
Louisiana241K264K224K121K+118%-8.71%
Maine71.8K72.4K58.5K34.1K+112%-0.83%
Maryland361K378K274K150K+152%-4.5%
Massachusetts500K508K421K304K+67.1%-1.57%
Michigan541K698K568K393K+77.6%-22.5%
Minnesota409K465K293K161K+189%-12%
Mississippi169K180K137K74K+143%-6.11%
Missouri374K445K321K184K+142%-16%
Montana49.4K53.3K42.2K30.1K+77.1%-7.32%
Nebraska135K145K112K66.9K+117%-6.9%
Nevada118K129K87.9K13.7K+842%-8.53%
New Hampshire161K75.5K61.7K29.4K+157%+113%
New Jersey414K444K336K216K+55.6%-6.76%
New Mexico123K163K111K44.5K+266%-24.5%
New York1.25M1.31M1.04M806K+62.5%-6%
North Carolina564K586K405K172K+241%-3.75%
North Dakota53.3K56.9K40.2K31.5K+80.6%-6.33%
Ohio645K745K550K376K+98.1%-13.4%
Oklahoma196K231K178K110K+110%-15.2%
Oregon228K252K183K122K+107%-9.52%
Pennsylvania700K805K610K411K+95.9%-13%
Puerto Rico199K248K183K63.1K+293%-19.8%
Rhode Island80.9K85.1K75.5K45.9K+85.4%-4.94%
South Carolina241K257K186K69.5K+270%-6.23%
South Dakota53.4K58.4K43.2K30.6K+90.8%-8.56%
Tennessee322K352K264K135K+161%-8.52%
Texas1.64M1.54M1.03M442K+248%+6.49%
Utah360K256K164K82K+255%+46.6%
Vermont42.9K45.6K35.5K22.2K+105%-5.92%
Virginia552K578K382K152K+280%-4.5%
Washington367K388K321K184K+111%-5.41%
West Virginia140K152K88K63.2K+141%-7.89%
Wisconsin336K384K307K202K+90.1%-13.8%
Wyoming32.5K38.3K30K15.2K+152%-15.1%

Alabama

88.6% of college students in Alabama are from outside the state; 11.4% are residents.

  • 304,000 students are enrolled in Alabama colleges.
  • That’s a 7.32% decline since 2010 when 328,000 students were enrolled in Alabama colleges.
  • 40,300 Alabama residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 5,730 or 14.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 234,000 students were enrolled in college in Alabama.
  • In 1970, 104,000 were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the state increased 215% between 1970 and 2010.

Alaska

89.4% of college students in Alaska are out-of-state; 10.5% are residents.

  • 25,700 students are enrolled in Alaska colleges.
  • That’s a 26.6% decline since 2010 when 35,000 students were enrolled in Alaska colleges.
  • 4,700 Alaska residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 1,990 or 42.3% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 28,000 students enrolled in college in Alaska.
  • In 1970, 9,470 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased % between 1970 and 2010.

Arizona

92.5% of college students are from outside the state; 7.5% are residents.

  • 582,000 students are enrolled in Arizona colleges.
  • That’s a 22.3% decline since 2010 when 794,000 students were enrolled in Arizona colleges.
  • 50,000 Arizona residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 6,500 or 13% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 342,000 students enrolled in college in Arizona.
  • In 1970, 110,000 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 622% between 1970 and 2010.

Arkansas

87.3% of college students are from outside the state; 12.7% are residents.

  • 160,000 students are enrolled in Arkansas colleges.
  • That’s a 9.09% decline since 2010 when 176,000 students were enrolled in Arkansas colleges.
  • 23,800 Arkansas residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 3,430 or 14.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 115,000 students enrolled in college in Arkansas.
  • In 1970, 52,000 were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the state increased 238% between 1970 and 2010.

California

87.3% of college students are from outside the state; 12.7% are residents.

  • 2.71 million students are enrolled in California colleges.
  • That is a 0% change in enrollment since 2010.
  • 388,000 California residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 44,500 or 11.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 2.26 million students enrolled in college in California.
  • In 1970, 1.3 million were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the state increased 108% between 1970 and 2010.

Colorado

90.9% of college students are from outside the state; 9.1% are residents.

  • 361,000 students are enrolled in Colorado colleges.
  • That’s a 2.17% decline since 2010 when 369,000 students were enrolled in Colorado colleges.
  • 43,900 Colorado residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 11,000 or 25.1% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 264,000 students enrolled in college in Colorado.
  • In 1970, 123,000 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 200% between 1970 and 2010.

Connecticut

89.5% of college students are from outside the state; 10.5% are residents.

  • 197,000 students are enrolled in Connecticut colleges.
  • That’s a 1.01% decline since 2010 when 199,000 students were enrolled in Connecticut colleges.
  • 36,000 Connecticut residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 15,300 or or 42.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 161,000 students enrolled in college in Connecticut.
  • In 1970, 125,000 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 59.2% between 1970 and 2010.

Delaware

90.4% of college students are from outside the state; 9.6% are residents.

  • 60,700 students are enrolled in Delaware colleges.
  • That’s a 9.76% increase since 2010 when 55,300 students were enrolled in Delaware colleges.
  • 8,500 Delaware residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 2,690 or 31.6% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000,43,900 students enrolled in college in Delaware.
  • In 1970, 25,300 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 119% between 1970 and 2010.

District of Columbia

99.2% of college students are out-of-state; .8% are residents.

  • 97,800 students are enrolled in the District of Columbia colleges.
  • That’s a 6.3% increase since 2010 when 92,000 students were enrolled in District of Columbia colleges.
  • 3,390 District of Columbia residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 2,590 or 76.4% of residents leave the district to attend college.
  • In 2000, 72,799 students enrolled in college in District of Columbia.
  • In 1970, 77,200 were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the district increased 19.2% between 1970 and 2010.

Florida

87.6% of college students are from outside the state; 12.4% are residents.

  • 1.07 million students are enrolled in Florida colleges.
  • That’s a 4.46% decline since 2010 when 1.12 million students were enrolled in Florida colleges.
  • 153,000 Florida residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 20,100 or 13.1% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 708,000 students enrolled in college in Florida.
  • In 1970, 236,000 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 375% between 1970 and 2010.

Georgia

86.7% of college students are from outside the state; 13.3% are residents.

  • 543,000 students are enrolled in Georgia colleges.
  • That’s a 4.57% decline since 2010 when 569,000 students were enrolled in Georgia colleges.
  • 90,900 Georgia residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 18,700 or 20.6% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 346,000 students enrolled in college in Georgia.
  • In 1970, 127,000 were enrolled.
  • College enrollment rates in the state increased 348% between 1970 and 2010.

Hawaii

89.7% of college students are from outside the state; 10.3% are residents.

  • 61,900 students are enrolled in Hawaii colleges.
  • That’s a 20.7% decline since 2010 when 78,100 students were enrolled in Hawaii colleges.
  • 10,500 Hawaii residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 4,120 or 39.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 60,200 students enrolled in college in Hawaii.
  • In 1970, 36,600 were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the state increased 113% between 1970 and 2010.

Idaho

82.8% of college students are from outside the state; 7.2% are residents.

  • 123,000 students are enrolled in Idaho colleges.
  • That’s a 44.4% increase since 2010 when 85,200 students were enrolled in Idaho colleges.
  • 12,200 Idaho residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
  • 3,290 or 27% of residents leave the state to attend college.
  • In 2000, 65,600 students enrolled in college in Idaho.
  • In 1970, 34,600 were enrolled.
  • Enrollment in the state increased 146% between 1970 and 2010.

Illinois

89.8% of college students are from outside the state; 10.2% are residents.

      • 738,000 students are enrolled in Illinois colleges.
      • That’s a 18.6% decline since 2010 when 907,000 students were enrolled in Illinois colleges.
      • 112,000 Illinois residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 36,500 32.6% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 744,000 students enrolled in college in Illinois.
      • In 1970, 452,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 101% between 1970 and 2010.

      Indiana

      88.1% of college students are from outside the state; 11.9% are residents.

      • 388,000 students are enrolled in Indiana colleges.
      • That’s a 15.5% decline since 2010 when 459,000 students were enrolled in Indiana colleges.
      • 53,900 Indiana residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 7,570 or 14% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 314,000 students enrolled in college in Indiana.
      • In 1970, 193,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 138% between 1970 and 2010.

      Iowa

      91% of college students are from outside the state; 9% are residents.

      • 254,000 students are enrolled in Iowa colleges.
      • That’s a 33.4% decline since 2010 when 382,000 students were enrolled in Iowa colleges.
      • 26,500 Iowa residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 3,560 or or 13.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 189,000 students enrolled in college in Iowa.
      • In 1970, 109,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 250% between 1970 and 2010.

      Kansas

      89.7% of college students are from outside the state; 10.3% are residents.

      • 213,000 students are enrolled in Kansas colleges.
      • That’s a 0.93% decline since 2010 when 215,000 students were enrolled in Kansas colleges.
      • 26,200 Kansas residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 4,190 or 16% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 180,000 students enrolled in college in Kansas.
      • In 1970, 102,000 were enrolled.
      • College nrollment rates in the state increased 111% between 1970 and 2010.

      Kentucky

      88.2% of college students are from outside the state; 11.8% are residents.

      • 263,000 students are enrolled in Kentucky colleges.
      • That’s a 9.62% decline since 2010 when 291,000 students were enrolled in Kentucky colleges.
      • 36,400 Kentucky residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 5,280 or 14.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 188,000 students enrolled in college in Kentucky.
      • In 1970, 98,600 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 195% between 1970 and 2010.

      Louisiana

      85.9% of college students are from outside the state; 14.1% are residents.

      • 241,000 students are enrolled in Louisiana colleges.
      • That’s a 8.71% decline since 2010 when 264,000 students were enrolled in Louisiana colleges.
      • 39,800 Louisiana residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 5,800 or 14.6% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 224,000 students enrolled in college in Louisiana.
      • In 1970, 121,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 118% between 1970 and 2010.

      Maine

      89.8% of college students are from outside the state; 10.2% are residents.

      • 71,800 students are enrolled in Maine colleges.
      • That’s a 0.83% decline since 2010 when 72,400 students were enrolled in Maine colleges.
      • 10,300 Maine residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 3,010 or 29.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 58,500 students enrolled in college in Maine.
      • In 1970, 34,100 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 112% between 1970 and 2010.

      Maryland

      90% of college students are from outside the state; 10% are residents.

      • 361,000 students are enrolled in Maryland colleges.
      • That’s a 4.5% decline since 2010 when 378,000 students were enrolled in Maryland colleges.
      • 51,800 Maryland residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 17,300 or 33.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 274,000 students enrolled in college in Maryland.
      • In 1970, 150,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 152% between 1970 and 2010.

      Massachusetts

      91.4% of college students are from outside the state; 8.6% are residents.

      • 500,000 students are enrolled in Massachusetts colleges.
      • That’s a 1.57% decline since 2010 when 508,000 students were enrolled in Massachusetts colleges.
      • 64,300 Massachusetts residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 21,500 or 33.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 421,000 students enrolled in college in Massachusetts.
      • In 1970,304,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 67.1% between 1970 and 2010.

      Michigan

      86.9% of college students are from outside the state; 13.1% are residents.

      • 541,000 students are enrolled in Michigan colleges.
      • That’s a 22.5% decline since 2010 when 698,000 students were enrolled in Michigan colleges.
      • 81,400 Michigan residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 10,700 or 13.1% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 568,000 students enrolled in college in Michigan.
      • In 1970, 393,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 77.6% between 1970 and 2010.

      Minnesota

      91.6% of college students are from outside the state; 8.4% are residents.

      • 409,000 students are enrolled in Minnesota colleges.
      • That’s a 12% decline since 2010 when 465,000 students were enrolled in Minnesota colleges.
      • 49,100 Minnesota residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 14,800 or 30% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 293,000 students enrolled in college in Minnesota.
      • In 1970, 161,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 189% between 1970 and 2010.

      Mississippi

      85.6% of college students are from outside the state; 14.4% are residents.

      • 169,000 students are enrolled in Mississippi colleges.
      • That’s a 6.11% decline since 2010 when 180,000 students were enrolled in Mississippi colleges.
      • 27,200 Mississippi residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 2,920 or 10.7% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 137,000 students enrolled in college in Mississippi.
      • In 1970, 74,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 143% between 1970 and 2010.

      Missouri

      89.6% of college students are from outside the state; 10.4% are residents.

      • 374,000 students are enrolled in Missouri colleges.
      • That’s a 16% decline since 2010 when 445,000 students were enrolled in Missouri colleges.
      • 48,800 Missouri residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 9,990 or 20.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 321,000 students enrolled in college in Missouri.
      • In 1970, 184,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment in the state increased 142% between 1970 and 2010.

      Montana

      89.1% of college students are from outside the state; 10.9% are residents.

      • 49,400 students are enrolled in Montana colleges.
      • That’s a 7.32% decline since 2010 when 53,300 students were enrolled in Montana colleges.
      • 7,020 Montana residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 1,630 or 23.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 42,200 students enrolled in college in Montana.
      • In 1970, 30,100 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 77.1% between 1970 and 2010.

      Nebraska

      89.9% of college students are from outside the state; 10.1% are residents.

      • 135,000 students are enrolled in Nebraska colleges.
      • That’s a 6.9% decline since 2010 when 145,000 students were enrolled in Nebraska colleges.
      • 16,800 Nebraska residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 3,100 18.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 112,000 students enrolled in college in Nebraska.
      • In 1970, 66,900 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 117% between 1970 and 2010.

      Nevada

      86.4% of college students are from outside the state; 13.6% are residents.

      • 118,000 students are enrolled in Nevada colleges.
      • That’s a 8.53% decline since 2010 when 129,000 students were enrolled in Nevada colleges.
      • 20,300 Nevada residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 4,300 or 21.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 87,900 students enrolled in college in Nevada.
      • In 1970, 13,700 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 842% between 1970 and 2010.

      New Hampshire

      96.2% of college students are from outside the state; 3.8% are residents.

      • 161,000 students are enrolled in New Hampshire colleges.
      • That’s a 113% increase since 2010 when 75,500 students were enrolled in New Hampshire colleges.
      • 11,100 New Hampshire residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 4,990 or 45% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 61,700 students enrolled in college in New Hampshire.
      • In 1970, 29,400 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment in the state increased 157% between 1970 and 2010.

      New Jersey

      85.8% of college students are from outside the state; 14.2% are residents.

      • 414,000 students are enrolled in New Jersey colleges.
      • That’s a 6.76% decline since 2010 when 444,000 students were enrolled in New Jersey colleges.
      • 93,500 New Jersey residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 34,600 or 37% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 336,000 students enrolled in college in New Jersey.
      • In 1970, 216,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 55.6% between 1970 and 2010.

      New Mexico

      89% of college students are from outside the state; 11% are residents.

      • 123,000 students are enrolled in New Mexico colleges.
      • That’s a 24.5% decline since 2010 when 163,000 students were enrolled in New Mexico colleges.
      • 16,400 New Mexico residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 2,920 or 17.8% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 111,000 students enrolled in college in New Mexico.
      • In 1970, 44,500 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 266% between 1970 and 2010.

      New York

      88.3% of college students are from outside the state; 11.7% are residents.

      • 1.25 million students are enrolled in New York colleges.
      • That’s a 6% decline since 2010 when 1.31 million students were enrolled in New York colleges.
      • 179,400 New York residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 33,400 or 18.6% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 1.04 million students enrolled in college in New York.
      • In 1970, 806,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 62.5% between 1970 and 2010.

      North Carolina

      87.1% of college students are from outside the state; 12.9% are residents.

      • 564,000 students are enrolled in North Carolina colleges.
      • That’s a 3.75% decline since 2010 when 586,000 students were enrolled in North Carolina colleges.
      • 84,600 North Carolina residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 11,700 or 13.8% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 405,000 students enrolled in college in North Carolina.
      • In 1970, 172,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment in the state increased 241% between 1970 and 2010.

      North Dakota

      92% of college students are from outside the state; 8% are residents.

      • 53,300 students are enrolled in North Dakota colleges.
      • That’s a 6.33% decline since 2010 when 56,900 students were enrolled in North Dakota colleges.
      • 5,780 North Dakota residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 1,530 or 26.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 40,200 students enrolled in college in North Dakota.
      • In 1970, 31,500 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 80.6% between 1970 and 2010.

      Ohio

      87.5% of college students are from outside the state; 12.5% are residents.

      • 645,000 students are enrolled in Ohio colleges.
      • That’s a 13.4% decline since 2010 when 745,000 students were enrolled in Ohio colleges.
      • 95,000 Ohio residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 14,600 or 15.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 550,000 students enrolled in college in Ohio.
      • In 1970, 376,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment in the state increased 98.1% between 1970 and 2010.

      Oklahoma

      86.7% of college students are from outside the state; 13.3% are residents.

      • 196,000 students are enrolled in Oklahoma colleges.
      • That’s a 15.2% decline since 2010 when 231,000 students were enrolled in Oklahoma colleges.
      • 30,100 Oklahoma residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 4,050 or 13.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 178,000 students enrolled in college in Oklahoma.
      • In 1970, 110,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 110% between 1970 and 2010.

      Oregon

      89.9% of college students are from outside the state; 10.1% are residents.

      • 228,000 students are enrolled in Oregon colleges.
      • That’s a 9.52% decline since 2010 when 252,000 students were enrolled in Oregon colleges.
      • 28,400 Oregon residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 5,480 or 19.3% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 183,000 students enrolled in college in Oregon.
      • In 1970, 122,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 107% between 1970 and 2010.

      Pennsylvania

      88% of college students are from outside the state; 12% are residents.

      • 700,000 students are enrolled in Pennsylvania colleges.
      • That’s a 13% decline since 2010 when 805,000 students were enrolled in Pennsylvania colleges.
      • 105,000 Pennsylvania residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 20,900 or 19.9% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 610,000 students enrolled in college in Pennsylvania.
      • In 1970, 411,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 95.9% between 1970 and 2010.

      Puerto Rico

      82.8% of college students in Puerto Rico are out-of-state; 17.2% are residents.

      • 199,000 students are enrolled in Puerto Rico colleges.
      • That’s a 19.8% decline since 2010 when 248,000 students were enrolled in Puerto Rico colleges.
      • 35,500 Puerto Rico residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 1,280 or 3.6% of residents leave Puerto Rico to attend college.
      • In 2000, 183,000 students enrolled in college in Puerto Rico.
      • In 1970, 63,100 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment increased 298% between 1970 and 2010.

      Rhode Island

      92.4% of college students are from outside the state; 7.6% are residents.

      • 80,900 students are enrolled in Rhode Island colleges.
      • That’s a 4.94% decline since 2010 when 85,100 students were enrolled in Rhode Island colleges.
      • 8,960 Rhode Island residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 2,840 or 31.7% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 75,500 students enrolled in college in Rhode Island.
      • In 1970, 45,900 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 85.4% between 1970 and 2010.

      South Carolina

      85.6% of college students are from outside the state; 14.4% are residents.

      • 241,000 students are enrolled in South Carolina colleges.
      • That’s a 6.23% decline since 2010 when 257,000 students were enrolled in South Carolina colleges.
      • 40,400 South Carolina residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 5,750 or 14.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 186,000 students enrolled in college in South Carolina.
      • In 1970, 69,500 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment in the state increased 270% between 1970 and 2010.

      South Dakota

      90.1% of college students in South Dakota are from outside the state; 9.9% are residents.

      • 53,400 students are enrolled in South Dakota colleges.
      • That’s a 8.56% decline since 2010 when 58,400 students were enrolled in South Dakota colleges.
      • 7,010 South Dakota residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 1,710 or 24.4% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 43,200 students enrolled in college in South Dakota.
      • In 1970, 30,600 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 90.8% between 1970 and 2010.

      Tennessee

      85.7% of college students in Tennessee are from outside the state; 14.3% are residents.

      • 322,000 students are enrolled in Tennessee colleges.
      • That’s a 8.52% decline since 2010 when 352,000 students were enrolled in Tennessee colleges.
      • 55,300 Tennessee residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 9,290 or 16.8% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 264,000 students enrolled in college in Tennessee.
      • In 1970, 135,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 161% between 1970 and 2010.

      Texas

      86.2% of college students in Texas are from outside the state; 13.8% are residents.

      • 1.64 million students are enrolled in Texas colleges.
      • That’s a 6.49% increase since 2010 when 1.54 million students were enrolled in Texas colleges.
      • 257,000 Texas residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 31,400 or 12.2% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 1.03 million students enrolled in college in Texas.
      • In 1970, 442,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 248% between 1970 and 2010.

      Utah

      93.4% of college students in Utah are from outside the state; 6.6%% are residents.

      • 360,000 students are enrolled in Utah colleges.
      • That’s a 46.6% increase since 2010 when 256,000 students were enrolled in Utah colleges.
      • 26,100 Utah residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 2,440 or 9.3% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 164,000 students enrolled in college in Utah.
      • In 1970, 82,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 255% between 1970 and 2010.

      Vermont

      94.6% of college students in Vermont are from outside the state; 5.4% are residents.

      • 42,900 students are enrolled in Vermont colleges.
      • That’s a 5.92% decline since 2010 when 45,600 students were enrolled in Vermont colleges.
      • 4,470 Vermont residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 2,170 or 48.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 35,500 students enrolled in college in Vermont.
      • In 1970, 22,200 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 105% between 1970 and 2010.

      Virginia

      89.1% of college students in Virginia are from outside the state; 10.9% are residents.

      • 552,000 students are enrolled in Virginia colleges.
      • That’s a 4.5% decline since 2010 when 578,000 students were enrolled in Virginia colleges.
      • 74,400 Virginia residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 14,000 or 18.8% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 382,000 students enrolled in college in Virginia.
      • In 1970, 152,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 280% between 1970 and 2010.

      Washington

      89.3% of college students in Washington are from outside the state; 10.7% are residents.

      • 367,000 students are enrolled in Washington colleges.
      • That’s a 5.41% decline since 2010 when 388,000 students were enrolled in Washington colleges.
      • 50,800 Washington residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 11,700 or 23% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 321,000 students enrolled in college in Washington.
      • In 1970, 184,000 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 111% between 1970 and 2010.

      West Virginia

      92.6% of college students in West Virginia are from outside the state; 7.4%% are residents.

      • 140,000 students are enrolled in West Virginia colleges.
      • That’s a 7.89% decline since 2010 when 152,000 students were enrolled in West Virginia colleges.
      • 12,100 West Virginia residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 1,760 or 14.5% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 88,000 students enrolled in college in West Virginia.
      • In 1970, 63,200 were enrolled.
      • Enrollment in the state increased 141% between 1970 and 2010.

      Wisconsin

      88.8% of college students in Wisconsin are from outside the state; 11.2% are residents.

      • 336,000 students are enrolled in Wisconsin colleges.
      • That’s a 13.8% decline since 2010 when 384,000 students were enrolled in Wisconsin colleges.
      • 47,200 Wisconsin residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 9,471 or 20% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 307,000 students enrolled in college in Wisconsin.
      • In 1970, 202,000 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 90.1% between 1970 and 2010.

      Wyoming

      90.4% of college students in Wyoming are from outside the state; 9.6% are residents.

      • 32,500 students are enrolled in Wyoming colleges.
      • That’s a 15.1% decline since 2010 when 38,300 students were enrolled in Wyoming colleges.
      • 4,070 Wyoming residents are enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
      • 947 or 23.3% of residents leave the state to attend college.
      • In 2000, 30,000 students enrolled in college in Wyoming.
      • In 1970, 15,200 were enrolled.
      • College enrollment rates in the state increased 152% between 1970 and 2010.

      line graph of racial demographics trends in college enrollment from 1976 to 2018

      College Student Demographics

      Demographic statistics are imperfect because many people do not easily fit into just one category. Some data, especially when it is historical, uses obsolete definitions and terminology. The language of this report conforms to the language used in available data sets.

      by Race or Ethnicity

      • 12 million or 55.2% of college students are White or Caucasian.
      • 78.9% of White or Caucasian students enroll at 4-year institutions; 21.1% attend private schools.
      • As a percentage of the entire student population, the White or Caucasian demographic has decreased by 34.5% since 1976.
      • 19.5% of the college student population is Hispanic or Latino, a 441.7% increase since 1976.
      • 65.4% of students in this demographic attend public institutions; 34.6% enroll in 2-year colleges.
      • 4.3 million college students are Hispanic or Latin.
      • 2.1 million or 9.6% of the students are Black or African American.
      • Black or African American students have increased among the student population by 39.6% since 1976.
      • Since 2010, Black or African American students have decreased among the student population by 10.7%
      • 75.6% of students in this demographic attend 4-year institutions; 24.4% enroll in 2-year colleges.
      • 7% of students are Asian, and 3% are Pacific Islander.
      • 84.6% of Asian or Pacific Islander students enroll at 4-year institutions; 15.4% enroll at 2-year institutions.
      • Asian and Pacific Islander were not considered separate demographics until 2010.
      • 1.5 million students are Asian and 654,000 are Pacific Islander.
      • 3.9% of students are multiracial or of two or more races.
      • Since 2010, when it was first listed as a racial category, enrollment (as a share of the total student body) among students of two or more races has increased 143.8%.
      • 850,200 students are of two or more races.
      • 0.7% of the student body is American Indian or Alaska Native; this is the same level of representation this demographic had in 1976.
      • 152,600 college students are American Indian or Alaska Native.
      • Among students of color with a 1200 or better score in the SAT/ACT, 57% of students graduate with an academic credential.
      • 33% of white Americans over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree compared to 19% of black Americans and 16% of Hispanic Americans.
      • Students of color average a 21% increase in earning potential when attending more selective colleges.
      • The average increase in earning potential is 15% for White or Caucasian students attending the same selective schools.
      • 56% of Hispanic or Latino and 46% of Black or African American. students finish a four-year degree within six years, compared to 72% of White students.
      • Black and Hispanic students enroll in higher numbers in community colleges and less-selective four-year institutions.
      • Among Black or African American high school graduates with a 3.5 GPA or better, nearly 33% attend community college.
      • 22% of White or Caucasian students with similar grades attend community college.
      • Since 2000, community college enrollment among Hispanic or Latina females between the ages of 18 and 24 years increased from 25% to 41%.
      • Also since 2000, the enrollment rate among White females aged 18 to 24 increased from 41% to 44%.
      • Black females between the ages of 18 and 24 increased from 35% to 40%.

      by Sex or Gender

      • Women are 24.7% more likely to enroll in higher education than men are.
      • Women are 4.5% more likely to attend private institutions than men are.
      • 44.5% of postsecondary and postgraduate students are men.
      • 55.5% of undergraduate and graduate students are women.
      • In 1960, 41.2% of college students were women.
      • 75.8% of male college students attend public institutions; 24.2% attend private schools.
      • 74.7% of female students attend public institutions; 25.3% attend private schools.
      • 37.8% of American males aged 18 to 24 years are enrolled in college or graduate school.
      • 78.4% of male college students aged 18 to 24 years attend public institutions; 21.6% attend private institutions.
      • 46.7% of American females aged 18 to 24 years are enrolled in college or graduate school.
      • 76.7% of female college students aged 18 to 24 years attend public institutions; 23.3% attend private institutions.
      • 66.9% of male students are recent high school graduates aged 16 to 24 years.
      • 71.3% of female students are recent high school graduates aged 16 to 24 years.
      • Women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees.
      • Among students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution, 63% of women and 57% of men complete their degrees in 6 years.

      Bar graph: College Enrollment by Age from 15 Years or Under to 55 Years +

      by Age

      • 12.8 million, or 42.1% of American 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in college or graduate school.
      • 74.5% of all 18- and 19-year-olds are enrolled in school of any type.
      • 40.6% of 20- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in school.
      • 11.4% of Americans aged 25 to 34 years are enrolled.
      • 2.3% of those 35 years and older are enrolled.
      • The average age for students enrolled full-time in undergraduate programs is 21.8 years old; the average age of part-time students is 27.2 years.
      • 49% of all undergraduate and postgraduate students were 20-21 years old.
      • 2.8% of college students are under 18.
      • 0.2% of college students are aged 55 and older.

      by Economic Status

      • Students from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status are 50% more likely to enroll in college than those in the lowest quintile.
      • 42% of students from the lowest quintile of socioeconomic status pursue a 2-year degree; 32% pursue a 4-year program.
      • 78% of students from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status seek a 4-year degree; 13% pursue a 2-year degree.
      • 37% of students from high-income status families and 7% of lower-income students first enroll at highly selective institutions.

      Line graph: Historical College Enrollment at Public and Private Institutions

      FAFSA Enrollment Categories

      When applying for federal student aid, a current or prospective student may be considered “dependent” or “independent”. These categories were formally labeled “traditional” and “nontraditional”. Some institutions still use these terms.

      • Traditional student characteristics include full-time enrollment within a year of graduating high school.
      • Financially independent students enrolled part-time and/or enrolled without a diploma or GED may be considered nontraditional.
      • The FAFSA lists independent student characteristics as follows:
        • 24 years of age or older
        • Married
        • Graduate/Professional student
        • Active-duty member of armed forces or veteran
        • Ward of the court/state, orphan, in foster care since age 13
        • Have legal dependents other than a spouse
        • An emancipated minor
        • Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

      Bar graph: Adult Roles Among College Students, Undergradutes and Graduates, by Sex

      Independent Student Statistics

      Independent students usually have lower levels of income and are more likely to have children under the age of 18.

      • The median age among independent students is 29 years.
      • Independent students are 70% less likely to graduate within 6 years.
      • 55% of female students have at least one characteristic of an independent student; 46% of male students have at least one characteristic of independent students.
      • With the exception of Asian students, at least half of female students of color are independent.
      • 51% of independent students are parents.
      • 42% of independent students live at or below the federal poverty line.
      • 43% of independent students with children live at or below the federal poverty line.
      • 63% of single mothers in college live in poverty.
      • 72% of student parents have financial need even after financial aid, grants, and family contributions.
      • 2.1 million student parents attended 2-year colleges in 2014.
      • 71% of independent college students with dependent children are women.
      • 47% of Black or African American women in college are parents.
      • 41% of American Indian or Alaska Native women in college are parents.
      • 39% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander women are parents.
      • 32% of Hispanic or Latino women are parents.
      • 29% of White or Caucasian women and 18% of Asian women in college are parents.
      • 60% of mothers in college are raising their children without the support of a partner, spouse, or other family member.
      • 56% of parents in college devote more than 30 hours a week to caring for their children.
      • 88% of single parents with children have incomes at or below 200% of the poverty line.
      • The average level of debt for single mothers after graduation is $3,800 higher than female students with no children.
      • The average level of debt a single mother owes is at least $5,000 more than male graduates with no children.

      Analysis: Cause and Effect

      The spectre of debt is the most likely cause of recent declines in enrollment rates. Since the subprime student loan era that contributed to the Great Recession, cautionary tales of unmanageable debt have circulated mass media; the cover of the August 2016 issue of Consumer Reports, for example, predominantly featured a quote from a 32-year-old with over $150k in student loan debt: “I Kind of Ruined My Life by Going to College.”

      Before the current decline, college enrollment numbers had steadily increased following World War II. Beginning with programs like G.I. Bill, the federal and state governments have invested heavily in post-secondary education. Currently, most federal aid is provided in the form of loans and grants, next to state funding of public colleges and universities.

      Because of such aid, populations that did not always participate in higher education began enrolling at numbers never before seen. As a result, the average student population on campus may look quite different compared to earlier decades. Currently, Hispanic students are the fastest-growing population of college students. Female students are increasingly leading the way in fields of study and in schools traditionally dominated by male students.

      Further, educational attainment often improves socioeconomic status for students and their families. Many jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the US require a college degree. For that reason, educational achievement is critical for many students to progress in society.

      Logically, if a more educated population leads to increased equality and socioeconomic success, a less educated population will, at the very least, not contribute to either of those outcomes. It is likely that the full consequences of a less educated population may not be apparent for quite some time.

      Sources

  1. United States Census Bureau, Current Population Survey
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics
  3. NCES, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
  4. NCES, The Condition of Education
  5. Parent Toolkit, “Public vs. Private Colleges.”
  6. NCES, “Definitions and Data:  Who is Nontraditional?”
  7. Federal Student Aid, “Grants and Scholarships.”
  8. Full Trends in Student Aid 2019 report.
  9. PEW Research Center, A Rising Share of Undergraduates Are From Poor Families
  10. Low-Income Students at Selective Colleges: Disappearing or Holding Steady?