College Enrollment Statistics

Having a college degree is very important. This is something we often hear from our parents. But are they really right about it? 

According to the newest college enrollment statistics, it is predicted that in 2020, in the U.S. alone, 14.61 million students will enroll in public colleges and 5.14 in private ones. 

But, knowing that many other people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who quit college or didn’t even enroll in one still achieved success beyond imagination can certainly influence your decision. This fact can be very confusing and make you wonder, is it really worth it to spend so much time and money just for a college degree? Regardless of your decision, the fact remains that the number of students enrolling in colleges is continuously increasing, meaning that the younger population is becoming more and more educated.

If you are reading this article, then you are probably struggling with the decision you have to make. The good news is, though, that you’ve come to the right place, as we provide insightful college enrollment statistics that’ll hopefully help you make a well-informed decision. Keep on reading and you will find answers to all of your questions, which are based on the newest college statistics, and will be of great help for you to make the right decision.

General College Enrollment Statistics – 2024

  • About 3.9 million students graduated from college in 2019.
  • 35% of the population in the U.S in 2019 had completed 4 years (or more) of college.
  • It is expected 19.928 million students to enroll in colleges in 2020. 
  • College enrollment is expected to rise for about 3.1 million by the year 2028.
  • 75% of 10.9 million undergraduate students were enrolled in full-time college institutions in the fall of 2018.
  • Texas A & M University has the highest student enrollment among public colleges in 2020.
  • In 2019 2.3 million students enrolled either in 4-year or 2-year institutions were between the age of 18-24 and 200.800 students were over 24.

How Many College Students in the U.S?

Over the past decades, besides the unpredictable drop in the past 10 years, the number of students enrolling in colleges in the U.S. has followed a consistent upward trajectory, with the number of students enrolled varying from 19 to 21 million students. This means that the youth in the U.S. is consistently becoming more educated and a majority of individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 are making a decision to enroll in colleges in the U.S.

1. 19,928 million students are expected to enroll in colleges in 2020. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19,928 million students are expected to enroll in colleges in the United States of America. As we can see from the college student’s stats, experts’ predictions suggest that the number of students enrolling in colleges in the following years will rise, which means that most of the high school graduates are willing to continue with their education.

2. A 3% college enrollment growth is expected between 2017 and 2028.

Experts predict that in the next decade there will be a 3% increase in college enrollment both for male and female undergraduate students. The anticipated growth is considered to be substantial, but still not as high as in the years of 2000-2010 when we witnessed a huge increase in the number of students.

3. Approximately 3.9 million students in the United States of America graduated from college in 2019.

College graduates statistics show that in 2019, 35% of the population in the U.S. finished 4 or more years of college. These percentages are incomparable with those in the past when the number was just 4.6%.

College Enrollment Statistics by Year 

By the looks of yearly college statistics, we can see that more and more undergraduate students are willing to enroll in colleges. In comparison to 1965, when only 3.5 million students enrolled in colleges in the U.S., present-day college enrollment data is very much different. Today, the number of enrolled students each year reaches more than 19 million students.

 4. Total college student enrollment between 2000-2018 grew by up to 29%. 

Student fall enrollment in higher education institutions between the years 2000-2018 has increased by 29%. The number of enrolled students in 2000 was 15,312,289 million and rose to 19.828.000 million students in 2018.

5. In 2010 the total number of enrolled students in higher education institutions was the highest in history.

The highest college enrollment throughout the years was recorded in 2010. With 21,019,438 enrolled students, the year 2010 takes first place as the year with the highest student enrollment.

6. College undergraduate enrollment dropped by 8% between the years of 2010-2018.

After the year 2010 when we witnessed the highest number of enrolled students, the number of undergraduate student enrollment began to decrease. From 18.1 million undergraduate students enrolled, it decreased to 16.6 million students.

7. 36% of the American population in 2019 had graduated from college.

As college attendance rates over time increase, so do the graduate rates as well. In 1900, 120 years ago, only 27,410 people received a bachelor’s degree, nationwide, and until 1940, only 4.6% of the American population had graduated from college. Over the years, the percentage grew, and as of 2019, the number climbed to 36%.

College Enrollments by State

8. California is the state with the highest student enrollment in higher education institutions.

California is the leader among the 50 states and other jurisdictions with 2,714,051 enrolled students in 2017. University enrollment statistics show that not just in 2017, but throughout the years, California was the state with the highest enrollment rate in higher education institutions. In 2010, California reached the highest number in history with 2,714,699 students enrolled in higher education institutions. After California, states with the most enrolled students in higher education institutions are Texas with 1.6 million students, New York with 1.2 million students, Florida with 1 million students, and Illinois with 757,000 students.

9.  Arizona and Iowa were the most affected states due to the decreased student enrollment between 2010 and 2015.

The college enrollments in Iowa decreased by 28%, and, unfortunately, it took first place for the most badly affected state in the U.S. In 2010, Iowa had 381,867 enrolled students, but, unfortunately, that number decreased over the years, and in 2017 dropped to 260,954 students. Arizona was the second-most affected state, with a significant 18.2% enrollment decrease during the same period.

10. Alaska is a state with the lowest student enrollment in colleges. 

Over the years Alaska keeps the trend for the lowest student enrollment among the states. The highest number of 34,799 enrolled students in Alaska was reached in 2010, but still, it wasn’t enough for the trend to be changed.

11. Massachusetts is the most educated state in the USA.

According to WalletHub analysis, Massachusetts scored 81.84 on a 100-point scale, which makes it the most educated state among the other 49. Massachusetts ranks first primarily because it is home to very prestigious schools like MIT, Harvard University, and Wellesley College. Also, Massachusetts is a state with the most bachelor’s degree holders and has the highest university quality on average. 

College Enrollment Statistics by Universities

12. Western Governors University is the highest-ranked university by student enrollment in 2020.

University enrollment numbers show that with 121,437 enrolled students, Western Governors University, so far, is a university with the most enrolled students in 2020. Western Governors University is a private non-profit online institution. As opposed to the conventional chord-based class model, this university uses an online competency-based learning approach.

13. Texas A & M University has the highest student enrollment among public colleges.

With 68,679 enrolled students so far, Texas A & M University takes first place for the highest-ranked public university by student enrollment in 2020. 78.3% of the enrolled students are undergraduate and only 21.7% are graduate students.

14. The University of Phoenix Arizona has the highest enrollment among private for-profit colleges.

So far in 2020, The University of Phoenix Arizona has 95,777 students enrolled. 74,061 of them are undergraduate students and 21,716 are graduates.

College Enrollment Statistics 2020

Types of College Students Prefer to Enroll

Public Institutions

Public institutions are funded by local, state, and federal governments, and they are also supported by taxpayers. In order for public institutions to make their services more affordable, they offer lower tuition rates in favor of state residents. That’s why they mainly draw a larger in-state population. Students that are out-of-state residents can also enroll in public colleges, but they’ll have to pay full tuition.  

Private Non-profit Institutions

Private non-profit universities and colleges generally have a higher price tag than private for-profit institutions. But, financial aids such as scholarships and grants are making them as affordable as public colleges. These institutions get significant funds from federal and state support. Most of that enables them to work more productively while maintaining lower tuition fees and thus attracting more students. 

Private For-profit Institutions

Private for-profit institutions are mainly operated with a motive to profit. Compared to non-profit institutions where they invest in improving the services they offer to students, for-profit institutions invest in marketing, recruitments, and executive bonuses. These institutions mostly operate through an online model which can be very accessible for working students. If enrolling in a private for-profit institution is the best option for you, do thorough research beforehand regarding the credibility of the college you want to enroll in.

2-year Institutions

2-Year institutions are also known as community colleges. It only takes two years to complete a Community College but most of them don’t offer bachelor’s degrees. However, enrolling in 2-year institutions can be the perfect option for students who want to save money and be less reliant on student loans. These institutions can be very helpful for high school graduates and prepare them for transferring to a bigger 4-year institution.

15. College enrollment trends are higher for public colleges than they are for private ones.

In the ’40s and early ’50s, the interest for enrolling in private institutions was slightly higher than for public institutions. But, that trend started to change after the year 1952, and since then public schools are far more preferred among students. In fact, recent data suggests that more and more students choose to enroll in public colleges and the number of students enrolled exceeds 9 million.

16. 76% of enrolled students in four-year private non-profit institutions complete a degree in six years.

Four-year private non-profit institutions have the highest graduation rates compared to public and private for-profit four-year institutions. In comparison to 76% that completed a degree in private non-profit institutions, a mere 35.5% graduated from private for-profit institutions.

17. In 2017, 4,106,477 students enrolled in private non-profit institutions.

These institutions enroll around 3.4 million students every year, which is approximately 20% of all enrolled students. This is a quite substantial number compared to the enrolled students in for-profit institutions, which was 1,089,966 in 2017.

18. In 2018, 35% of all college students have enrolled in a 2-year institution.

The number of enrolled students in 2-year institutions has grown in time. Compared to 1970 when only 2,318,956 students were enrolled in 2-year institutions, in 2018 the number reached 5,991 million students.

Online College Enrollment Statistics

Distance learning can be very beneficial and also time and money-saving. That’s why nowadays college and university students rely more and more on online classes. Today, more than a third of all students have already attended at least one online course.

19. In the academic year 2018/2019, 34.7% of all students attended at least one online class.

Of all 20,008,434 enrolled students that year, 6,937,249 students enrolled at least in one online course. The other 13,071,185 students did not enroll in any online education course.

20. 69% of online enrolled students are there to improve their careers.

Graduate students were more likely to take online courses than undergraduate students. Approximately 22% of graduate-level students studied online exclusively, which is double the number compared to 11% of undergraduate students enrolled in online classes. Undergraduate students preferred to take a mix of both traditional and online classes, which 14.3% did, compared to graduate students who only 7.8% of them took both kinds of classes.

21. 95% of all online enrolled students would recommend online education.

According to BestColleges, 95% of students that were enrolled online in 2019 would recommend online education to others. On the other hand, 92% of students that have already graduated from the online programs are recommending online education.

College Enrollment Demographic Statistics

By Gender 

With a deeper look into statistics, we were able to notice that college enrollment by gender has changed throughout the years. Nowadays, a bigger number of female students are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college, which was quite the opposite in the past. And, according to college enrollment demographics, this trend of more female students enrolling in colleges is not a surprise. It started in 1980 when for the first time in history there was a bigger number of female students enrolled in colleges.

22. In the last decade, for each consecutive year there were about 3 million more female students than males.

For 40 years now, there are more female than male students enrolling in colleges each year. In the last decade, the difference between male and female enrolled students has become quite significant. The numbers of female students are varying from around 11.5 million, compared to 8.5 million male students.

23. 1.8 million females are expected to enroll in a post-graduate program in 2020.

It is projected that by the end of 2020 1.8 million female students are going to enroll in a post-graduate program, compared to 1.2 million male students. The difference is quite big In comparison to 1980 when only 748,000 females and 874,000 male students enrolled in post-graduate programs.

By Age

24. In 2018, 54.6% of students enrolled in colleges were between the ages of 20-21.

According to statistics, most of the enrolled students in colleges are between the age of 18-21 with a slightly lower enrollment rate of 50.5% by students aged 18-19. While just 28% of students enrolled were between the age of 22-24, 12.7% were between 25-29 years, and only 6.3% of the students were between 30-34 years.

By Race

25. In 2018, the undergraduate enrollment by race was more diverse than it was in 1980.

In 1980, 82.66% of undergraduate students enrolled were white, 9.93% black, 4.22% Hispanic, 2.42% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.76% American Indian/ Alaska Native. In 2018 the representation of students by race has become more diverse, with the college student demographics showing that 56.27% were white students, 13.82% black, 21.77% Hispanic, 7.35% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.78% American Indian/ Alaska Native.

By Economic Status

26. Students with the highest socioeconomic status are 50% more likely to enroll in colleges. 

On the other hand, just 28% of students with the lowest socioeconomic status are likely to enroll in colleges. 78% of students with high socioeconomic status enroll in 4-year institutions and just 13% enroll in 2-year institutions. While 48% of students from the lowest socioeconomic status enroll in 2-year institutions, and just 32% of them are pursuing education in 4-year institutions.

Veteran College Enrollment Statistics

27. Only 37.7% of all U.S. Veterans had a bachelor’s degree in 2017. 

In 2017, 79.4% of all U.S Veterans have some college education from which only 37.7% have a bachelor’s degree. While 29.7% of them had an advanced degree.

28. 31% of veterans enrolled in college are studying STEM fields.

18% of student veterans are studying business, marketing, and related fields, which is the most preferred field among veteran students. 15% are enrolling in health professions, 8% in engineering, 6% in each social science, computer and information science, education, homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting. 4% are studying public administration and social service, 4% psychology, and only 2% are studying biological and biomedical science.

29. Veterans are more likely to enroll in low-graduation rate institutions.

65% of all veteran students are more likely to enroll in low-graduation rate institutions compared to 51% of all students. Veteran students are more likely to enroll in institutions where fewer than 50% of all students are graduating in regular time than in institutions where 70% of the students graduate in 3 or 6 years.

Community College Enrollment Statistics

30. According to statistics regarding college enrollment by year, 6.1 million students enrolled in community colleges in 2017.

In fall 2017, 6.1 million students have enrolled in any kind of community college, out of which 5.8 million were enrolled in public community colleges. About 3.7 million were enrolled part-time and 2.1 full-time.

31. 34% of all undergraduate students enrolled in community colleges in 2017.

In fall 2017, 34% of all undergraduate students enrolled in community colleges, out of which only 17% were full-time graduates, while 58% were part-time. This percentage is slightly lower compared to 2016 when 38% of undergraduate students enrolled in community colleges.

32. Approximately 69% of students enrolled in community colleges are employed.

22% of full-time enrolled students work 35 or more hours a week, while 41% of part-time enrolled students work full-time. Also, many students work part-time jobs. 40% of full-time and 32% of part-time enrolled students have a part-time job.]

College Graduation Rates

33. In the U.S., about 3.9 million students graduated from college in 2019.

3.9 million students succeed in graduating from college in 2019, from which 1.9 million acquired bachelor’s degrees. Among others, 989,000 acquired associate degrees, 820,000 master’s degrees, and 184,000 doctorate degrees.

34. Approximately 62% of students in 4-year institutions were able to complete the degree within 6 years.

About 62% of students that enrolled in 4-year institutions in the year 2012 succeeded to complete the degree in 6 years. All 62% of the students completed the degree in the same institution from where they were first enrolled.

35. There are more female than male graduates.

In the past, there were more male students who enrolled and graduated from college than female students. Until 2015, there were more male graduates than females, but since then, the trend has changed, and nowadays there are more female than male graduates.

College Attendance Rates

36. College attendance rate for students from 18 to 24 years increased to 41% in 2018.

College attendance statistics show that the overall University enrollment rate for students aged 18-24 increased from 35% in 2000 to 41% in 2018. In 2018 the attendance rate was higher for about 59% for Asian students, 42% for white students, 37% for black, and 36% for Hispanic students.

37. There was a 1.3% decline in college enrollment from 2018 to 2019.

College attendance rates have decreased for over 8 consecutive years. The overall decline for 2019 was 1.3% which is more than 231.00 students.

38. More college students attend full-time than part-time.

Statistics show that throughout the years more students have enrolled full-time than part-time. Approximately 62% of all college students enrolled with full-time attendance status.

Frequently Asked Questions
How many students are enrolled in college in 2019?

College freshman statistics show that in 2019, there were around 19,700 million students enrolled in colleges in the U.S.

What college has the largest enrollment?

Western Governors University has the largest enrollment, with 121,437 students enrolled just this year. This university is an online, private non-profit institution.

How many students do not go to college?

Around 33% of students that graduate from high school did not enroll in college. 

Is there a decline in college enrollment?

According to the college enrollment statistics, we can see that in the past 10 years there was a decline in college enrollment. In 2010 we witnessed the highest enrollment rate with 21,019,438 enrolled students, and since then, the enrollment is steadily in decline. In 2019, 19,700 million students enrolled in colleges.

How many students go to college each year?

The average college enrollment is about 19.5 million students per year. 

What is the average age of college students?

College statistics show that the average age of college students is between 18 and 24.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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