State of College Enrollment

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The overall college enrollment rate has increased since 2000. Different factors, such as changes in the labor market and the economy, may have contributed to this increase. The college enrollment rate is defined as the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students in 2- or 4-year institutions. Over a more recent time period, the overall college enrollment rate in 2017 was not measurably different from the rate in 2010, but the rate at 4-year institutions increased from 2010 (28 percent) to 2017 (30 percent), and the rate at 2-year institutions decreased from 13 percent to 10 percent during this period.

More than two-thirds of high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities the following fall, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, continuing the relatively flat college enrollment rate of the last decade at a time when the higher education industry is under pressure from shifting workforce demands and many institutions are reporting dwindling enrollment.

In October 2018, 69% of 16- to 24-year-olds who graduated high school in 2018 were enrolled, with 9 out of 10 reporting they were full-time students – a marginal increase over 2017 high school graduates, 67% of whom were enrolled in college or university. Over the last decade, that figure has fluctuated between 66% and 70%.

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