Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Hispanic Student Enrollments Reach New Highs in 2011

III. Hispanic College Enrollments

Hispanics Continue to Lead Growth in College Enrollments

The ranks of the nation’s young college students continue to grow. In October 2011, 18- to 24-year-old college enrollment reached a record 12.6 million students, up 3% from 2010.

Growth in the number of young Hispanics attending college accounted for the majority of the increase. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of young Hispanics enrolled in college grew by 15%, or 265,000 students, to 2.1 million. This increase follows on the heels of a 24% increase in Hispanic college enrollments between 2009 to 2010 (Fry, 2011). Alone, Hispanic college enrollment growth accounted for nearly three-quarters (74%) of the growth in college student enrollments over the last year.

The white non-Hispanic student population also grew between 2010 and 2011, increasing by 219,000 students, or 3%, to 7.9 million. Meanwhile, the number of blacks enrolled in college and the number of Asians enrolled in college fell, by 3% and 8% respectively between 2010 and 2011.

With fast growth in the Hispanic college student population, Hispanics now make up 16.5% of the nation’s 18- to 24-year-old college students. As recently as October 2006, Hispanics were only 11% of all college students. In just five years, their share has grown by almost 50%. This is a significant milestone because for the first time Hispanic representation among the nation’s traditional college student population matched Hispanics’ overall population representation, also at 16.5%. 5 Even so, Hispanics’ share among college students continues to lag their share (20.0%) among all young people ages 18 to 24.

Hispanics Now Largest Minority Group at Four-Year Colleges

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, Hispanic enrollment at four-year colleges and universities increased 20% from October 2010 (1.0 million) to October 2011 (1.2 million). For the first time, young Hispanic enrollments on four-year campuses exceeded young black enrollments (1.1 million), making Hispanics the largest minority group at four-year colleges and universities. In 2011, Hispanics were 13.1% of all 18- to 24- year olds enrolled at four-year colleges and universities.

This follows a similar change since 2010 among students enrolled at two-year college campuses. Then, the number of Hispanic young people enrolled in two-year colleges was 835,000, higher than the 630,000 black students enrolled at two-year colleges (Fry, 2011). Since then, the number of Hispanics enrolled at two-year colleges has continued to grow. In 2011, some 908,000 Hispanics and 564,000 blacks ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in two-year colleges. In 2011, Hispanics made up one-quarter (25.2%) of all 18- to 24- year old students enrolled in two-year colleges for the first time.

Population Growth and Eligibility Key Reasons for Growth in Hispanic College Enrollments

Some of the growth in Hispanic college enrollments simply reflects continued growth in the nation’s Hispanic population—since 1972, the number of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds has grown nearly five-fold, rising from 1.3 million then to 6.0 million in 2011.

However, population growth alone does not explain enrollment gains among Hispanics.

According to Pew Hispanic estimates, a record share of young Hispanics is eligible to attend college. In 2011, 76% of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 had finished high school, the highest level of Hispanic high school completion ever attained and a three-percentage-point increase over the 2010 level (73%). This record-high level of Hispanic high school completion is consistent with the recently noted strong gains in the Hispanic high school graduation rate at the nation’s public schools reported by Education Week (Swanson, 2012). 6

College-going among young Hispanic high school completers also reached a record level in October 2011. Nearly half (46%) were enrolled in college, eclipsing the share (45%) of black high school completers enrolled in college. By comparison, 51% of white high school completers and 67% of Asian high school completers were enrolled in college.

  1. In the 2010 Census, Hispanics were 16.3% of the nation’s total population (Passel, Cohn and Lopez, 2011). However, the college enrollment figures shown in this report are based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). The population universe for the CPS is the civilian, non-institutionalized population. In the October 2011 CPS, Hispanics made up 16.5% of the civilian, non-institutionalized population.
  2. The high school completion rate measure used in this report is the proportion of an age group that has completed high school by either graduating with a high school diploma or completing a GED. It does not gauge whether high school was completed on time. In the Education Week report, a different high school graduation rate measure is used. This measure uses U.S. Department of Education data and aims to measure the percentage of public high school students who graduate on time with a diploma.
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