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Hispanic College Enrollment Surges in 2012

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Hispanic college enrollment numbers increased from 2011 to 2012, even while white non-Hispanic and black enrollment numbers declined.  Is this simply the product of a growing U.S. Hispanic population, or are there other forces at work?

The adult Hispanic population in the United States has risen faster than both the white non-Hispanic and black populations in recent years.  The Hispanic population increased by more than 2.2 million from 2011 to 2012, while the black population grew by only 800,000 and the white non-Hispanic population remained stable. Even without a change in the probability of being enrolled in college, we would expect growth in Hispanic enrollment to outpace that of these other groups.

In addition to sheer population growth, however, the Hispanic population also increased its rate of college enrollment.  From 2011 to 2012, the enrollment rate of Hispanics 18 and older increased from 8.8 percent to 9.5 percent, even while the rate for the total (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) over-18 population fell from 8.7 percent to 8.3 percent.

One reason for high enrollment might be the large proportion of young people in the Hispanic population, so it’s important to check how rates are changing by age.  Among young adult Hispanics (age 18 to 24), the rate of college attendance has also been growing.  From October 2007 to October 2012, the percentage of the young adult Hispanic population in college grew from 27 percent to 37 percent.  In the same period, overall college enrollment for people this age went from 39 percent to 41 percent.

What type of colleges did these young adult Hispanic students attend?  Forty-three percent of the Hispanic college students age 18 to 24 were attending a two-year college in 2012, while only 27 percent of similar age non-Hispanic students did so.  Hispanic college students were also more likely than non-Hispanic students to attend part time (22 percent compared with 12 percent).  Eighty-nine percent of them were attending a public college, compared with 81 percent of non-Hispanic students.

Since 1961, the Census Bureau has released annual estimates of enrollment from the October Enrollment Supplement to the Current Population Survey.  This year’s release includes statistics from 2012, historical estimates covering enrollment from 1955 to 2012  and a new report using the 2011 American Community Survey.

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