For-profit colleges are growing faster than their peer institutions and the representation of female, black and Hispanic students is rising at greater rates than is true for other students, a new Education Department study shows.
The study  from the National Center for Education Statistics, "Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2003; Graduation Rates 2000 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2003," provides a slew of data on enrollment patterns and other matters.
Over all, it finds continued expansion of the higher education system in the United States, as enrollments at institutions that award federal financial aid swelled to 17.3 million students in the fall of 2003, up from just over 17 million the year before. Most institutions shared in that growth: Public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutions alike all saw their raw enrollment numbers grow (public and private nonprofit institutions by about 80,000 students each and for-profit institutions by 140,000). But commercial institutions' share of the total (up to 5.7 percent in 2003, from 5.0 percent in 2002) grew the most, although it remains the smallest by far.
Enrollments at two-year institutions actually declined slightly from 2002 to 2003, while enrollment at four-institutions grew.
Among other highlights of the study:
- The gender gap in college enrollments continued to accelerate. Although the number of male students did increase from 2002 to 2003, by about 45,000, the number of female students rose much more, by about 240,000. As a result, the proportion of all students who were male declined again, to 42.6 percent from 43.1.
- Continuing a recent trend, the number and proportion of students who are enrolled full time increased in 2003, to 61.5 percent from 60.3 percent in 2002 and 59.2 percent in 2001.
- The number and proportion of students who identified themselves as African-American, Hispanic and American Indian increased. The number of white and Asian students increased, too, but their proportions of the total fell.
- The proportion of all students who were in graduate school (as opposed to being undergraduates) edged up slightly, to 12.1 percent from 12.0.
The Education Department study also contains information about the financial aid status of 2.5 million first-time, full-time undergraduate students who were enrolled in 2002-3 at institutions that are eligible to award federal aid. Of those students, 73.0 percent received some kind of financial aid, up from the 72.3 percent of students who received such aid during 2001-2.
Fifty-two percent of the 2002-3 recipients received one or more federal grants, compared to 46 percent of the 2001-2 aid recipients. Nearly 75 percent of undergraduates at for-profit institutions received federal grants, compared to 48.5 percent of those at public institutions and 36.5 percent at private nonprofit institutions.
Enrollment at Institutions in U.S. That Award Federal Financial Aid
|Number of students, 2003||% of all students, 2003||Number of students, 2002||% of all students, 2002|
|Type of institution|
|Less than 2-year||316,067||1.8||311,259||1.8|
|Type of student|
Figures may not add to totals because of rounding. Source: U.S. Education Department