Guest Opinion: Changing demographics among college students
October 14, 2012
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By Rachel Higgins |Guest Opinion
September 14, 2012
[A note from the editor: Rachel Higgins writes for an online education website that is focused on providing information to current and prospective students looking to take some classes online. In her article, she discusses a topic familiar to many readers of The Charger Account: the place of minority students on college campuses across the country. Her post focuses on the changing demographics that are cropping up in recession-era freshman classes, and talks about ways in which lawmakers and admissions officials can continue improving these numbers. In addition to writing about issues of diversity, Rachel regularly covers the importance of regional accreditation and other struggles facing the modern university.]
Recent studies have found young people are attending college now more than ever, despite the economic recession that many predicted would negatively impact enrollment numbers.
However, some key demographics remain under-represented at the collegiate level.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, college enrollment increased 37 percent from 15.3 million to 21.0 million between 2000 and 2010.
Full-time enrollments, which represented the majority of all enrollments, rose by 45 percent during that period.
In addition, male enrollments grew by 35 percent and female enrollments increased by 39 percent.
This was especially true at the graduate level, where male enrollment grew by 38 percent and female enrollment grew by 62 percent.
NCES notes that enrollment increases are greatly affected by population growth; incidentally, between 2000 and 2010, the population of 18- to 24-year-old adults rose by 12 percent (roughly 3.4 million individuals).
According to NationMaster, the United States leads the world in college enrollment at 72.6 percent; in contrast, the weighted global average is 23.8 percent.
Other nations with high enrollment rates include Finland (70.4 percent), Norway (70 percent), Sweden (70 percent), New Zealand (69.2 percent) and Russia (64.1 percent).
Between 1976 and 2010, enrollment among African-American, Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islander students also increased.
During that period, African-American enrollments rose from 9 percent to 14 percent of the population; Asian/Pacific Islander enrollments increased from 2 percent to 6 percent; and Hispanic enrollment rose from 3 percent to 13 percent.
At the same time, enrollment of white students fell 83 percent to 61 percent.
These fluctuations indicate that college campuses have become significantly more racially and culturally diverse in the last 36 years, partially due to the implementation of racial quotas at virtually every major American school that have become standard practice over the last two decades.
However, recent figures from the US Census Bureau indicate that minority groups are still underrepresented in American higher education.
Some experts have pointed to the impressive percentage increases among minority students, though these numbers can be misleading.
For instance, African-American enrollment grew by roughly 34 percent between 2000 and 2009. The total number of students only grew from 2.2 million to 2.9 million, though.
Similarly, Hispanic enrollment grew by an impressive 71 percent, but merely 2.4 million were enrolled in 2009.
White enrollments, on the other hand, only rose by 25 percent during the 9-year span – yet more than 11 million white students were enrolled in 2009.
A July 2012 article by The Huffington Post noted that black and Hispanic students were especially rare at the nation’s most selective learning institutions. Even as colleges have become more diverse overall, racial disparities have quietly increased at elite schools.
Researchers point to two driving factors behind this trend: economic limitations and the desire of many minority students to attend racially varied (and traditionally, less exclusive) establishments.
The article also noted the potential of programs like Texas Top 10 Percent Rule – which ensures any high school student who graduates in the 90th percentile will be able to attend a four-year university – to attract a diverse crop of applicants if they were implemented at all schools.
In order to beat the recession and put more Americans to work, experts agree that colleges must accept a higher number of minority students.
Annual trends suggest that enrollment among these two groups will continue to rise in the coming years, which universities must foster and nurture even when things stabilize on the economic front.