College Enrollment Will Grow More Slowly, Education Department Projects

January 09, 2013

The number of students enrolled in college will continue to grow between 2010 and 2021, but the increases will be flatter than the steep climbs seen in the previous 14 years, according to projections released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The department's report, "Projections of Education Statistics to 2021," projects that total enrollment in degree-granting institutions will rise by 15 percent from 2010 to 2021, down from a 46-percent increase from 1996 to 2010. Both public and private institutions are expected to see enrollment gains of 15 percent in the coming years. That represents a more considerable change for private colleges, which experienced an increase of 81 percent from 1996 to 2010, than for public institutions, which saw enrollment grow by 36 percent over the same period.

The report projects varying increases among different racial and ethnic groups. The number of Hispanic students is projected to climb by 42 percent, black students by 25 percent, and white students by just 4 percent. Enrollment of Asian/Pacific Islander students will increase by 20 percent, according to the Education Department, and American Indian/Alaska native students by 1 percent.

Age also emerged as a variable in the pace of enrollment increases, with growth slowing the most for students ages 18 to 24 and the least for those ages 35 and older.

Enrollment of women is projected to continue outpacing that of men, with women expected to see an 18-percent gain, compared with a 10-percent increase for men.