School enrollment: college down, graduate school up


WASHINGTON — Overall postsecondary school enrollment dips since 2011, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite an overall decline in school enrollment, the number of people enrolled in graduate and professional schools in the United States jumped 8.1% from 2011 to 2018.

From October 2011 to October 2018, the total number of people enrolled at all levels of school declined by 2.2 million to 76.8 million people, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey School Enrollment Supplement.

Over the same period, the number of students in graduate and professional school increased by 307,000 to 4 million.

Among those in graduate school, 38% were in their first year and a half were working full-time.

Fewer College Students

In October 2018, 18.9 million people were enrolled in college, 1.5 million fewer than in 2011.

From 2011 to 2018, undergraduate college enrollment dropped by 1.8 million. During the same period, the number of students enrolled in two-year colleges dipped by 25%, or 1.4 million, to 4.3 million.

The decline in two-year college enrollment was not statistically different from the decrease in total undergraduate enrollment and neither decrease was significantly different from the 1.5 million decrease in the number of people enrolled in college.

More Student Diversity

Over the past 15 years, there has been a notable shift in the race and Hispanic origin makeup of students:

  • Among all people enrolled in school, non-Hispanic white students made up 62% of total enrollment in 2003. Their share declined to 52% of enrollment in 2018.
  • Hispanic enrollment went from 16% to 24% during the same period.
  • Black enrollment did not differ significantly at 15% in both 2003 and 2018.
  • Asian enrollment increased from 4% in 2003 to 6% in 2018.

The race and Hispanic origin composition of college enrollment also changed from 2003 to 2018:

  • Non-Hispanic white students declined from 68% to 54% of total college enrollment.
  • College enrollment of black students increased from 13% to 16%.
  • Hispanic college enrollment rose from 10% to 19%.
  • Asian enrollment increased from 7% to 9%.

Information about school enrollment can be found in the 2018 school enrollment tables.

Erik Schmidt is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

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