Enrollment in Colleges Found Resilient

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Despite expectations that the decline in the number of college-age students during the 1980's would trim postsecondary enrollments, most colleges and universities have more than held their own, according to a new survey.

College administrators are optimistic about continuing to "outsmart'' changing demographics, concluded Campus Trends, 1988, a survey released by the American Council on Education last week.

Seventy percent of those surveyed expect their institutions to grow over the next five years.

The survey found that 54 percent of all institutions had experienced net increases in enrollment since 1980. One-third reported enrollment increases of 10 percent or more in that period.

The healthy trend was due to increased enrollment of older students and a rise in the percentage of high-school graduates who continued their education, the study argued.

"The general picture that emerges from this review of current practices on American college campuses is one of remarkable resilience," said Elaine El-Khawas, the council's vice president for policy research and analysis and author of the report.

The picture was not as rosy, however, for independent colleges and universities. Among those schools, 47 percent reported net decreases, with 28 percent reporting decreases of 10 percent or more.

Minority Trends

A little more than half--53 percent--of all schools surveyed said their 1987-88 enrollment was above the previous year's level, and 56 percent reported increases for first-time freshmen.

But minority enrollment trends showed more modest gains. Only 23 percent of institutions said they had more black students in 1987-88 than in the previous year, while 25 percent said they had more Hispanics.

Moreover, two-thirds of administrators rated their institution's performance in attracting minority students as either fair or poor.

Most colleges and universities say they expect to continue coping effectively with demographic changes. Although the number of high-school graduates is expected to fall by 12 percent between 1988 and 1992, only 16 percent of adminstrators said they expected enrollment decreases over the next five years. Forty-three percent of independent institutions said they expected enrollment increases of 10 percent or more.

The survey was based on the responses of senior administrators at 367 colleges and universities.

Copies are available for $8 ($5 for ace members) from the American Council on Education, Division of Policy Analysis and Research, One Dupont Circle, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-1193.--mw

Vol. 08, Issue 05

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