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Census Bureau Stats Show Big Drop in College Enrollments

However, much of the decline is in two-year, not four-year, institutions.

College enrollment declined by close to half a million (463,000) between 2012 and 2013, marking the second year in a row that a drop of this magnitude had occurred, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from the just-released Current Population Survey. The cumulative two-year drop of 930,000 was larger than any college enrollment drop before the recent recession. (The Census Bureau began collecting data on college enrollment in this survey in 1966.)

However, a large part of the decline took place in two-year colleges, which experienced a 10% decline in enrollment over the period while enrollment at four-year colleges grew slightly (1%).

The Bureau's School Enrollment in the United States: 2013 report details national-level statistics on the characteristics of students from nursery school to graduate school using data collected in the October School Enrollment Supplement to the 2013 Current Population Survey.

“The drop-off in total college enrollment the last two years follows a period of expansion: between 2006 and 2011, college enrollment grew by 3.2 million,” says Kurt Bauman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch. “This level of growth exceeded the total enrollment increase of the previous 10 years combined (2.0 million from 1996 to 2006).”

According to the new statistics, the drop in enrollment was equally divided between older and younger students.  Enrollment of students 21 and younger fell by 261,000 while the enrollment of students older than 25 fell by 247,000, not statistically different from the change in enrollment of students 21 and younger. Overall, 40% of those 18 to 24 were enrolled in college in fall 2013, down from a peak of 42% in 2011.

Hispanic college enrollment stopped its growth in 2013. As larger share of Hispanic college students attend two-year schools than Asians, blacks or non-Hispanic whites, that perhaps partially explains the enrollment drop in that segment. Hispanic college enrollment did not grow between 2012 and 2013, after having increased by 1 million during the previous five years (2007 to 2012). Black college enrollment also did not grow after a climb of 500,000 in the previous five years. College enrollment of Asians increased by 340,000 from 2007 to 2012, but also did not grow between 2012 and 2013.

Among other highlights in the report...
• In 2013, 78 million people, 25.9 % of the population 3 years or older, were enrolled in school;
• Students who were born in another country or whose parents were foreign-born made up 25.8% of all those enrolled in school at all levels in 2013;
• Across all levels of enrollment, non-Hispanic whites made up 54% of students, Hispanics 21.8%, blacks 15.2& and Asians 5.6%;
• The number of blacks enrolled in school at all levels increased by 3.6% from 2003 to 2013 while the increase was 32.1% for Asians and 42.3% for Hispanics over the same period;
• In 2013, there were 4.3 million students enrolled in private elementary and high schools (K-12), down from 4.6 million in 2012 but public school enrollment did not rise over the period;
• In 2013, non-Hispanic white children comprised 52.7% of elementary school students (grades 1-8), down from 59.1%  in 2003 while non-Hispanic white students made up 47% of kindergarten students in 2013, compared with 60% a decade earlier;
• In 2013, there were 19.5 million college students, including 5.3 million in two-year colleges, 10.5 million in four-year colleges and 3.7 million in graduate school;
• At the college level, 58.2% of students were non-Hispanic white while Hispanics comprised 16.5%, blacks 14.7%  and Asians 8.1%;

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