College Enrollments Continue to Climb, While Graduation Rates Hold Steady

February 02, 2011

Both the number of people attending college and the share of them receiving financial aid continue to grow, while graduation rates remain flat, according to a report of 2009 data published on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The "First Look" report, "Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009; Graduation Rates, 2003 & 2006 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2009," is based on information collected from more than 6,700 institutions that receive Title IV federal student aid. Breakdowns of the data are available on the department's College Navigator Web site.

About 57 percent of first-time, full-time students seeking bachelor's or equivalent degrees at four-year colleges graduated from the college where they started within six years, the same rate as in the 2008 report. Nearly 37 percent of those students graduated within four years, and almost 53 percent graduated within five.

Nearly 21 million undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled in Title IV-eligible colleges in the fall of 2009, up from 19.6 milion the year before. About 62 percent were enrolled in four-year colleges, 37 percent in two-year colleges, and less than 2 percent in programs of less than two years' duration.

About 79 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates seeking degrees or certificates received financial aid in the 2008-9 year, up from 76 percent the previous year. About 51 percent of those students took out loans, and about 40 percent received a Pell Grant.

For the first time, this year's report also examines what first-time, full-time students who received grants paid for college, both before and after that aid was considered. At four-year public colleges, in-state students who received grant aid paid an average price of $16,271 before grants and $10,747 after they were subtracted from the total. At four-year private nonprofit colleges, the average price was $31,401 before grants and $19,009 after. At four-year private for-profit colleges, the average price was $26,976 before grants and $23,057 after. The report also breaks down net price by income range for those students who received Title IV aid.