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Key Points

  • Even after the dramatic enrollment declines in for-profit institutions, this sector enrolled about 1.2 million students in fall 2016, compared with 450,000 in fall 2000.
  • The enrollment decline in the for-profit sector was primarily among full-time undergraduate students. In 2016, these students made up 52% of for-profit enrollment—a decline from 63% in 2010.
  • Enrollment continued to increase in both the public and private nonprofit four-year sectors between 2010 and 2016. In fall 2016, these sectors enrolled 39% and 20%, respectively, of all postsecondary students.

Figure 21: Postsecondary Fall Enrollment by Attendance Status and Level of Enrollment (with Percentage of All Students Enrolled in Each Sector), 2000 to 2016, Selected Years

Postsecondary Fall Enrollment by Attendance Status and Level of Enrollment (with Percentage of All Students Enrolled in Each Sector), 2000 to 2016, Selected Years

NOTES: Percentages on the vertical axis represent the enrollment in each sector as a percentage of total enrollments. Four-year institutions include only those where more than 50% of degrees/ certificates awarded are bachelor’s degree or higher. Percentages may not sum to 100 because of rounding.

SOURCES: NCES, IPEDS Fall Enrollment data, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2016; calculations by the authors.

Also Important

  • All of the students reported in Figure 21 were enrolled in degree-granting institutions that participate in federal student aid programs. In the late 2000s, about 600,000 to 800,000 students were enrolled in for-profit institutions that do not participate in these programs. (S. Cellini and C. Golden, “Does Federal Student Aid Raise Tuition? New Evidence on For-Profit Colleges,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, November 2014)
  • Students enrolled in non-degree-granting institutions, not included in Figure 21, may be eligible for federal student aid if they are working toward certificates at accredited institutions. Some students enrolled in degree-granting institutions are not eligible for federal student aid because they are enrolled in non-credit-bearing programs.
  • Some colleges offer both two-year and four-year degrees. In Figure 21, four-year colleges are defined as institutions where bachelor’s degrees comprise more than half of all degrees awarded. Reclassifying colleges that offer any bachelor’s degrees as four-year institutions would increase the percentage of total postsecondary enrollments in public four-year colleges from the 39% reported here to 44%.