Higher Ed 2015

Education Department releases enrollment predictions, showing slowing college growth rate and continued prevalence of women.
September 15, 2006

College enrollments will continue to increase between now and 2015, but the rate of growth will decline, according to projections from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.

The report gives projections for enrollment, graduates, teachers and expenditures in both secondary and postsecondary education. NCES has released 34 such reports since 1964. The predictions don’t take into account college prices and the impact of distance learning, this year's report notes.

Enrollment in degree-granting institutions jumped by 25 percent -- from 13.8 million to 17.3 million --between 1990 and 2004, and is expected to increase to nearly 20 million, a 15 percent jump, by 2015. According to the predictions, college enrollment will increase 13 percent for students between the ages of 18 and 24, and 7 percent for those 35 and older. Male enrollment will be up 10 percent; female 18 percent.

The report projects that between 2004 and 2015, college enrollments will increase:

  • Eighteen percent for full-time students and 10 percent for part-timers.
  • Fourteen percent for undergraduate students and 19 percent for graduate students.
  • Fifteen percent in public institutions and 14 percent in privates.
  • Six percent for students who are white and non-Hispanic; 27 percent for students who are black and non-Hispanic; 42 percent for students who are Hispanic; 28 percent for students who are Asian or Pacific Islanders; 30 percent for students who are American Indian or Alaska native; and 34 percent for students who are nonresident aliens.

Women will continue to dominate the higher education landscape, the department envisions. It projects that between 2004 and 2015:

  • The number of associate degrees awarded will increase 12 percent over all (5 percent for men and 16 percent for women).
  • Bachelor's degrees will increase 22 percent over all (14 percent for men and 28 percent for women).
  • Master's degrees will increase 35 percent over all (28 percent for men and 41 percent for women).
  • Doctor's degrees will increase 21 percent over all (12 percent for men and 31 percent for women).

Higher education isn't the only sector seeing growth. Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools rose 18 percent between 1990 and 2003 and is projected to increase by another 6 percent between 2003 and 2015. The number of high school graduates increased by 21 percent between 1990-91 and 2004-05 and is projected to increase by 6 percent by the 2015-16 academic year.  


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