Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom

Pew Research Center Publications
by Richard Fry, Pew Research Center
June 16, 2010

Executive Summary

The recession-era boom in the size of freshman classes at four-year colleges, community colleges and trade schools has been driven largely by a sharp increase in minority student enrollment, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Freshman enrollment at the nation's 6,100 post-secondary institutions surged by 144,000 students from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008. This 6% increase was the largest in 40 years1, and almost three-quarters of it came from minority freshman enrollment growth.
From 2007 to 2008 (the first year of the recession), the freshman enrollment of Hispanics at post-secondary institutions grew by 15%, of blacks by 8%, of Asians by 6% and of whites by 3%.
Some of this minority enrollment surge is a simple byproduct of demographic change. In a nation whose population of youths is far more diverse than its population of adults, each new year brings a slightly larger share of minority teenagers into the pool of potential college freshmen. In addition, the first year of the recession was a time when young Hispanics, in particular, were completing high school at record rates. According to Census Bureau surveys, the Hispanic high school completion rate reached an all-time high in October 2008 at 70%.2 This was up 2.5 percentage points over October 2007 -- a larger increase than for any other racial or ethnic group.
Minority college students tend to be clustered more at community colleges and trade schools than at four-year colleges. Even so, the minority freshman enrollment spike from 2007 to 2008 occurred at all basic levels of post-secondary education.

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