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College enrollment in the United States from 1965 to 2011 and projections to 2021 for public and private colleges

This graph shows the college enrollment for public and private schools in the United States from 1965 to 2011 with an additional forcast to 2021. In 2011, about 5.9 million students were enrolled in private colleges and 15.1 million in public colleges.


College enrollment in public and private institutions in the US

College enrollment in the United States has grown steadily from 1965 to 2011. In 2011, total enrollment was at an all time high of about 21 thousand students, about 15 thousand of whom enrolled at public institutions of higher education and about 5.9 thousand of whom enrolled at private institutions. Enrollment growth is projected to continue through 2021, with total college enrollment reaching 24 thousand students in both public and private institutions.

The landscape of US colleges and universities is diverse. In total, there were 4,600 institutions of higher education in the US in 2010. Institutions offering college education, or “postsecondary education,” vary greatly. Some institutions grant Associates degrees following two years of instruction. Undergraduate enrollment at 2-year postsecondary degree-granting institutions totaled about 8 thousand students in 2010. Other institutions offer Bachelors degrees upon the completion of a four-year course of study. Undergraduate enrollment at 4-year postsecondary degree-granting institutions reached about 10 thousand students in 2010. Universities, which offer graduate-level degrees, are often further distinguished from colleges, which offer only undergraduate (Bachelors) degrees. In 2010, the post-baccalaureate enrollment in the US reached just under 3 thousand students.

The statistic above refers to enrollment at degree-granting institutions of all types, distinguishing only between students enrolled at public and private institutions. Public institutions of higher education are funded and run by state-level government, while private institutions are not. Private institutions can be further distinguished as either for-profit or nonprofit, though that distinction is not made here. As of 2008/9, for-profit institutions accounted for only five percent of all Bachelor’s degrees granted.

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YearPublicPrivate
2021* 17,345 6,747
2020* 17,183 6,685
2019* 16,965 6,604
2018* 16,712 6,508
2017* 16,441 6,401
2016* 16,203 6,307
2015* 16,020 6,233
2014* 15,871 6,171
2013* 15,694 6,098
2012* 15,530 6,027
2011 15,110.2 5,883.92
2010 15,142.81 5,873.32
2009 14,810.64 5,617.07
2008 13,972.15 5,130.66
2007 13,490.79 4,757.35
2006 13,180.13 4,578.74
2005 13,021.83 4,465.64
2004 12,980.11 4,291.93
2003 12,858.7 4,052.78
2002 12,752 3,859.72
2001 12,233.16 3,694.83
2000 11,752.79 3,559.5
1999 11,309.4 3,481.82
1998 11,137.77 3,369.19
1997 11,196.12 3,306.22
1996 11,120.5 3,247.02
1995 11,092.38 3,169.41
1994 11,133.68 3,145.11
1993 11,189.09 3,115.72
1992 11,384.57 3,102
1991 11,310 3,049.39
1990 10,844.72 2,974
1989 10,578 2,961
1988 10,161 2,894
1987 9,973 2,793
1986 9,714 2,790
1985 9,479 2,768
1984 9,477 2,765
1983 9,683 2,782
1982 9,696 2,730
1981 9,647 2,725
1980 9,457 2,640
1979 9,037 2,533
1978 8,786 2,474
1977 8,847 2,439
1976 8,653 2,359
1975 8,835 2,350
1974 7,989 2,235
1973 7,420 2,183
1972 7,071 2,144
1971 6,804 2,144
1970 6,428 2,153
1969 5,897 2,108
1968 5,431 2,082
1967 4,816 2,096
1966 4,349 2,041
1965 3,970 1,951
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