E.g., 02/23/2024
E.g., 02/23/2024
Shared Gains: Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Colleges

College enrollment trends in the United States are a subject of ongoing concern due to the role higher education plays in shaping the future workforce. Enrollment has gone through periods of growth and decline over the past two decades, reflecting changes in the nation’s demographics, economy, and views on the value of a college degree.

Total enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities increased by 37 percent from 2000 to 2011 but declined by 11 percent between 2011 and 2021. However, the post-2011 decline would have been steeper if not for the rapid rise in the college enrollment of immigrant-origin students—that is, students who were either born abroad or born in the United States to one or more immigrant parents.

This brief examines enrollment patterns for immigrants, the children of immigrants, and U.S.-born individuals with U.S.-born parents, including enrollment by race and ethnicity and in two-year versus four-year institutions. The brief also explores the relationship between parental education and college enrollment—an increasingly pertinent topic, given the rising education levels of recent immigrants.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction
A. Study Questions
B. Study Population and Data

2  College Enrollment Trends: 2000–21
A. Overall Enrollment
B. Enrollment by Institution Type
C. Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity

3  College Enrollment Rates by Immigrant Generation
A. Enrollment Rates by Race and Ethnicity
B. Effects of Parental Education on Enrollment Rates

4  Looking to the Future

5  Conclusion and Implications