Enrollment and age

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A look at enrollment trends among different age groups.

The new school year is just beginning, but community college presidents are closely watching enrollment numbers. Since hitting a peak in 2010, the total community college enrollment has decreased each fall after the Great Recession, declining by more than 1 million students nationally between 2010 and 2017.

However, when looking at those who do enroll at community colleges, one of the most striking findings is the dramatic and continuing rise in enrollment for the less-than-18-year-old students. That’s according to an a recent report from the American Association of Community Colleges. The number of part-time students younger than 18 dramatically increased, going from 287,000 in 2001 to more than 773,000 by 2017—an increase of 170 percent. This age group also saw an increase – though much less dramatic – in the number of students attending community college full time.

Most of the students in this age group are dual enrolled in high school and college. Data trends tell us that it’s possible that approximately 1.6 million high school students took community college credits during the 2015-16 academic year.

Looking further at age, data show that “traditional-aged” students (18-21) are the only group where full-time enrollment is greater than part-time enrollment. However, full-time traditional-aged students have been decreasing while the number attending part-time has been a consistent segment of community college enrollment in recent years.

This age group also makes up the largest portion of community college students. For all other age groups, students are more likely to be enrolled part time. Though, since 2009, enrollment for this age has declined by around 283,000, or about 9 percent.

For students aged 22-29, enrollment increased steeply in number through 2011, then declined rapidly through 2017. For the 30-49-year-old group, enrollment declined from 2003 to 2007, jumped up in 2009, then declined sharply – 34 percent – from 2011 to 2017.

Learn more about enrollment trends in this report.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.