A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that American colleges and universities saw a record rise in enrollment from fall 2007 to fall 2008. The report indicates that this increase is due to the growing number of minority students enrolling in postsecondary schools.
According to the Pew Research Center freshman enrollment went up 6 percent, roughly 144,000 students, in 2008 with almost three-quarters of that due to minority enrollment. This is the highest increase since 1968 when young adults attended college to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War.
The Washington Post and Education-Portal.com reports that of the 144,000 student increase, Hispanics showed the highest growth with 15 percent. Next were African Americans with 8 percent and Asians at 6 percent. Historically, these groups have been underrepresented in higher education. The surge in enrollment is attributed to fewer job opportunities for young people due to the recession and the fact that the nation’s 2008 high school graduating class was estimated to be the largest ever. This comes as no surprise as historically when unemployment rates are high many people go back to school for vocational training or to wait out the recession productively. Pew Research Center adds that the increase reflects the nation’s rapidly changing demographics. Today’s youth population is far more diverse and every year a slightly larger share of minority students become potential college freshmen.
The growth is not distributed evenly, however. The report shows that California, the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alabama and Nevada had the largest increases in 2008. The Washington Post reported that about half of the increase occurred at just 109 colleges and universities out of almost 6,100 and an even closer look shows that minority populations were more concentrated at community colleges and trade schools. Enrollment at 2-year colleges went up 11 percent; whereas trade schools (education less than 2-years) and 4-year institutions saw a 5 percent and 4 percent jump, respectively, according to Education-Portal. Pew Research Center also shows that for-profit colleges experienced an 11 percent increase.