The share of 18- to 24-year-olds attending college in the United States hit an all-time high in October 2008, driven by a recession-era surge in enrollments at community colleges, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Just under 11.5 million students, or 39.6% of all young adults ages 18 to 24, were enrolled in either a two- or four-year college in October 2008 (the most recent date for which comprehensive nationwide data are available). Both figures — the absolute number as well as the share — are at their highest level ever.
I think that most of us already knew that, at least understood that the numbers were up. I wonder often whether this is really a good thing; have we finally opened college up too much so that it will become the new high school?
In October 2007, some 3.1 million young adults, or 10.9% of all 18- to 24-year-olds, were enrolled in a community college.1 A year later, that figure had risen to 3.4 million students, or 11.8% of all 18- to 24-year-olds. By contrast, enrollments at four-year colleges were essentially flat from 2007 to 2008.
Community college enrollments have long been considered somewhat countercyclical; that is, they tend to rise as the economy worsens.
Despite the higher costs of four-year institutions, their enrollments have not dropped during this recession. Rather, they have held steady — and have been able to do so despite tuition increases averaging 4.9% per year beyond general inflation from 1999-2000 to 2009-10 at public four-year colleges and universities.
I think this is more interesting. My CC actually did not have an increased enrollment last year, but this year, we had a huge influx of students at the end of July and in August. We added 1000 students over last year in those six weeks.
What I am most fascinated by, though, is that four-year education has not dropped off. That means people are going to school rather than going out into the workforce. For right now that works. I hope that when this downturn ends there is a huge upswing in productivity and hiring.
from Pew Research Center