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Report Projects College Enrollment to Slow Through 2021



By Chris Hassan
Posted January 17, 2013 12:00 PM

College enrollment to slow in coming years.
College enrollment to slow in coming years.

With the job market as competitive as it is, one might expect people's desire to enroll in college and earn a bachelor's degree would be high. However, based on new data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), college enrollment is expected to level out in the years ahead.

Steady Enrollment to Replace Steep Climbs

The report, titled Projections of Education Statistics to 2021, features national enrollment data for the past 15 years, as well as projections through 2021. Overall, the total number of students who enroll in postsecondary degree-granting institutions is expected to rise 15% between fall 2010 and fall 2021. While any increase in college enrollment is positive, this projected percentage is much lower than the 46% enrollment growth schools saw between 1996 and 2010.

Both private and public institutions are projected to see their enrollment rise by 15%, which is a significant difference for both types of colleges and universities, but especially for private schools. Between 1996 and 2010, private institutions saw an enrollment increase of 81%, while public schools experienced growth of 36%.

More Adults Expected to Pursue Degrees

From 1996 to 2010, the number of students between the ages of 18 and 24 who pursued a degree increased 52%. Based on the report's projections, enrollment for this group is only expected to rise by 10% from 2010 to 2021.

While a 10% increase is not much, data shows that more students over the age of 24 are expected to pursue a college degree in the coming years. From 2010 to 2021, a 20% enrollment increase is projected for individuals between 25 and 34 years old, while a 25% rise is expected for degree seekers 35 years old and over. Still, these percentages were lower than the totals for the 1996-2010 time period.

Higher Number of Minority Students Expected to Enroll

Even if overall enrollment is expected to slow in the coming years, colleges and universities will continue to become more diverse learning environments, as the number of minority students should rise through 2021. According to the report, the number of Hispanic degree seekers is projected to rise by 42%. At the same time, a 25% increase in African American and 20% growth in Asian/Pacific Islander students is expected. Caucasian students will continue to pursue college degrees, but only a 4% enrollment increase is expected for this group.

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