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How many undergraduate students enroll in community colleges?

Numbers of students reflect U.S. citizens and permanent residents only; they do not include foreign nationals with temporary visas.

The more than 1,000 community colleges in the United States are an important and relatively inexpensive gateway for students entering higher education. In every year from 2000 to 2012, more than 4 in 10 undergraduate students, both women and men, enrolled in community colleges.

Minority undergraduate students are more likely than white undergraduates to attend community colleges.

Key Observations

  • Between 2001 and 2010, the number of female undergraduates enrolled in community colleges increased from 3.4 million to 4.4 million. The number then declined to 4.2 million in 2012.
  • Similarly, the number of male undergraduates enrolled in community colleges grew from 2.6 million in 2001 to 3.3 million in 2010, and then declined to under 3.2 million in 2012.
  • The percentage of women enrolled in community colleges decreased from 44% in 2001 to 41% in 2012. The number of male students also decreased, from 42% in 2001 to 40% in 2012.
  • During this period, women’s highest percentages (44%) were in 2001–04, while men’s highest percentages (42-43%) were in 2001–02 and 2009–10.
  • In 2012, community colleges enrolled 3.7 million white undergraduate students, 1.4 million Hispanics, just under 1.1 million blacks, about 419,000 Asians/Pacific Islanders, and about 71,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives. With the exception of Hispanics, these numbers reflect declines in every group since their peak year (2009 for Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives, 2010 for whites, and 2011 for blacks).
  • The number of Hispanic undergraduates in community colleges grew by 71% between 2001 and 2012, whereas the 2012 number for American Indians/Alaska Natives was the lowest since 2001.
  • In 2012, 51% of all Hispanic undergraduate students were enrolled in community colleges, compared to 47% of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 43% of blacks, 41% of Asians/Pacific Islanders, and 39% of whites. The percentage of undergraduates attending community colleges has decreased in each group since 2001.
  • The highest percentages of community college students in each group were in the first 2–3 years of the 2001–12 period.
STEM Education Data and Trends 2014
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