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19 Distressing College Student Demographics

When one thinks of the traditional college student, the person that comes to mind is someone who is young. Someone who has some cash stored away somewhere. It’s probably a male and he’s probably white. And today, that vision would be very wrong.

About 6.7% of the US population above the age of 3 is enrolled in a college or university right now. That’s about 20 million people.

So what is shifting in the world of college student demographics? The same shifts that are being seen in the general US population. Hispanics are growing as a minority population and this has caused them to see enrollment increases when other racial or ethnic demographics are seeing decreases in their college enrollment rates.

Who Is Today’s College Student?

  • In 2012, 17% of the US college student population was Hispanic. In 2007, Hispanics made up 11% of this population.
  • Total Hispanic enrollments in college went up in 2012 by 447,000. In comparison, non-Hispanic whites saw a 1.1 million decrease in enrollments and African-American/Blacks saw a decrease of 108,000.
  • Hispanic women [7.8%] have a higher college enrollment rate than Hispanic men [6%].
  • Asian Americans had the highest enrollment rates, at 9.4% overall.
  • 79% of college students were aged 18-24 last year, but this number dropped by 48,000 in 2012 from 2011 numbers. At the same time, college students aged 25+ fell by 419,000.
  • In 2012, there were 40 college students in the US that were below the age of 16.

For non-Hispanic whites, they still make up over 45% of the total number of college enrollments in the United States. This group is in the 18-24 age demographic. What has changed is that women are enrolling as college students now more often than men and minority demographics are seeing increases as the majority demographics are seeing decreases. The times are rapidly changing when it comes to who is seeking out a higher level of education. In just 5 years, these demographic figures could be dramatically different.

What Kind of College Are Students Attending?

  • 38.1% of current US college students are attending a public 2-year college.
  • 33.7% of college students are currently enrolled in a public 4-year institution.
  • The percentage of college students who are enrolled at a private non-profit 4-year institution: 16.5%.
  • Private for-profit colleges account for 9.1% of the current US college student population.
  • Private for profit institutions with a 2 year program have 2.4% of the college student population.
  • The least popular option for college students today is a private 2-year non-profit institution, as just 0.21% of the current population is enrolled.

Once these numbers get broken down further, some interesting patterns emerge. The average age for a college student at a for-profit university is 27. College students at for-profit universities average 1 child in their household. This means for-profit schools see more older students who are already parents and potentially working full-time while they go to school. This may be one reason why the growth of online college learning and degrees has expanded so rapidly over the last decade.

What Are College Students Doing?

  • Only 14% of current college students actually live on campus. When full-time college students are considered as a separate demographic, only 1 in 4 lives on campus.
  • Only 39% of full-time students will actually complete a 4 year degree within that period of time. 58% will graduate with a 4 year degree within 6 years.
  • At 2-year institutions, 38% of the enrolled college students will take at least three years to graduate.
  • 24% of all college students in every age demographic find themselves living at home with their parents.
  • Even within a 6 year period, not one single type of college or university has a undergraduate graduation rate which exceeds 70%. Private for-profit 4-year colleges have the worst graduation rates, with less than half of all students graduating within 6 years.
  • Fewer than 20% of newly enrolled college students at a 2 year public college will graduate within 3 years.

These demographics can’t tell us if college students are learning anything from their studies. They do tell us if students are graduating within a reasonable amount of time. In the US, your best chance at graduation is to attend a private for-profit 2-year college [60% graduation rate] or a 4-year private non-profit college [65% graduation rate]. No other types of institutions come close to these figures. Add in the rising costs of an advanced education and it is easy to see why vocational programs may be a tempting alternative. The demographics of college students are evolving. Only time will tell what that means for the workplace.

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