Equity & Diversity

College Enrollment To Swell— Minorities Included

By Julie Blair — May 31, 2000 2 min read
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College enrollment is expected to swell by 19 percent in the next 20 years due, in part, to the growth of minority students among the college-age population, a report released last week concludes.

The number of students on campuses nationwide will jump from 13.4 million in 1995 to 16 million in 2015, according to “Crossing the Great Divide: Can We Achieve Equity When Generation Y Goes to College?” The report was conducted by the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit Princeton, N.J., test-making company that produces the SAT college-entrance exam.

“Generation Y"—children born between 1982 and 1996—is the largest cohort of youngsters born since the baby boom that occurred between 1946 and 1964. Adults who are returning to college and foreign-born students will also increase the number of students on campus, the study says.

Minority students will make up 80 percent of the increase in undergraduates by 2015, the study says. By that year, more than 35 percent of all students on campus will be members of minority groups, and mostly of Asian and Hispanic descent. In 1995, minorities made up 29 percent of the college population.

Ill-Prepared for Influx?

Despite such growth, “the share of 18- to 24-year-old African-American and Hispanic undergraduates in 2015 still will be smaller than their proportions of the overall 18- to 24-year-old U.S. population,” the report says. “Closing the remaining gap ... should be a high national priority.”

Experts say the demographic shift will hit states and colleges like a six pack of beer on an empty stomach. Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas will feel the greatest impact, the study predicts.

“There has not been either financial or educational preparation for the new generation of students,” said Carol Geary Schneider, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 700 public and private institutions. “States, for example, have moved money away from higher education and into K-12 reform and prisons.”

Educating Generation Y will cost states, colleges, and parents $1 billion more a year than it does today, said Anthony P. Carnevale, the vice president for public leadership at the ETS and a co-author of the report. Currently, higher education runs those players $400 billion annually.

The higher proportions of minority students mean that the cohort of students attending colleges in 2015 is likely to be poorer and will, therefore, need significantly more financial aid, Ms. Schneider said. And, because many poorer students graduate from lesser-quality high schools, they’ll need extra help mastering college-level classes, such as remedial course, she predicted.

Many states and colleges are relying on distance-learning courses to help ease the projected congestion.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 31, 2000 edition of Education Week as College Enrollment To Swell— Minorities Included


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