US Census: College Enrollment Declined by Half Million in 2012

After several years of increasing college enrollment, the numbers took a step back in the latest set of data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the report, encompassing both undergraduate and graduate schools, 2012 enrollment declined by nearly half a million students.

The report, titled “School Enrollment: 2012,” shows that the falling number of older students had the biggest impact. Four hundred and nineteen thousand fewer students who were 25 and older entered college in 2012. The decline among students younger than 25 was modest by comparison – only 48,000.

Not all demographic groups followed the trend. The report shows Hispanic students beginning college in larger numbers than a year before. The increase was offset by white students, as non-Hispanic white enrollment fell by more than 1 million.

The tables released today cover specific topics such as enrollment by grade, the attendance status of nursery school students and characteristics of their mothers, the type of school college students attend (two-year, four-year, etc.) and whether they attend full or part time, students taking vocational courses and the enrollment status of recent high school graduates. The information was collected in the October 2012 Current Population Survey.

Also released today was School Enrollment in the United States: 2011, a report that examines the characteristics of people enrolled in school at all levels using statistics from the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey and federal sources outside the Census Bureau. It covers some topics not typically covered in Census Bureau reports, such as Head Start, charter schools, home schooling and receipt of financial aid.

Although most of the statistics are national-level, some state-level data from the American Community Survey are presented. Updated 2012 American Community Survey statistics on school enrollment covering states and all geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more will be published in September.

The report doesn’t just limit itself to college enrollment numbers. The data showed that nearly 80 million Americans aged 3 or older were attending school in 2012, which is more than a quarter of total population. Of those, 19.9 million were college students, including those enrolled in both two-year and four-year colleges.

Over the past year, private elementary and secondary school also experienced a decline in students — only 4.2 million kids were enrolled in private schools in 2012 compared to 4.8 in 2011.

Non-Hispanic white children in 2012 comprised 53 percent of elementary school students, down from 58 percent in 2005. Hispanic children made up 24 percent of elementary students in 2012, up from 20 percent in 2005. Black children comprised 15 percent of elementary students in 2012, down from 16 percent in 2005.
Students who were born in another country or whose parents were foreign-born comprised 32 percent of all those enrolled in school at all levels in 2012.

While most students are under 25, there were 804,000 students age 50 and older enrolled in schools at all levels in 2012.