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women and minorities
Introduction Chapter 1: Precollege Education Chapter 3: Undergraduate Degrees Chapter 4: Graduate Enrollment Chapter 5: Graduate Degrees Chapter 6: Employment Technical Notes Appendix Tables
Chapter Contents:
Enrollment rates
Enrollment status
Two-year institutions
Four-year institutions
Field choice
Engineering enrollment
Financial aid
Appendix Tables
List of Figures
Presentation Slides

Undergraduate Enrollment

Two-year institutions

Students with disabilities

More than 10 million students are enrolled in the approximately 1,200 community and technical colleges in the United States. These colleges award almost a half-million associate's degrees and nearly 200,000 certificates each year (AACC 2000). Community and technical colleges are attractive to many students because of their low cost, open admission policies, and flexible schedules. Community colleges often serve as a bridge between high school and 4-year colleges for students who may need additional academic skills or who find 2-year colleges an inexpensive means of completing the first 2 years of a college education before transferring to a 4-year school. About one-third of traditional-age students enrolled in a community college plan to transfer at some point to a 4-year institution. About 22 percent of those postsecondary students who entered a public 2-year institution in 1989/90 had transferred to a 4-year institution within the next 5 years (U.S. ED/NCES 1998).[6]

Although a large proportion of undergraduate enrollment is in 2-year colleges (44 percent), relatively few of these students earn associate's degrees, and fewer still earn them in S&E fields. Among beginning students at 2-year colleges in the 1989/90 school year, only 24 percent had earned an associate's or higher degree by 1994 (U.S. ED/NCES 1998). As is discussed in chapter 3, only 13 percent of these students earning associate's degrees were in S&E—primarily in either computer science or engineering technologies.

Women  top of page

Total undergraduate enrollment in 2-year colleges held steady from 1994 through 1997 at about 5.5 million students. Women accounted for more than half (57 percent) of total enrollment in 2-year colleges in 1997; this was the same proportion as in 1990. (See appendix table 2-7.)

Minorities  top of page

Higher percentages of Hispanic and American Indian undergraduates than members of other racial/ethnic groups are enrolled in 2-year colleges—54 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of American Indians in 1997, compared with 46 percent of Asians and blacks and 42 percent of whites. (See text table 2-1 text table.)

The numbers of Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians (both men and women) enrolled in 2-year institutions have been increasing since 1990. On the other hand, the numbers of white women and white men enrolled in 2-year institutions have declined since the early 1990s. (See appendix table 2-7.)

Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges tend to be 2-year institutions. Just over half of all Hispanic-serving institutions (53 percent) are 2-year institutions of higher education (White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans n.d.). Of the 32 tribal colleges or universities in the United States in 2001, the majority offered primarily 2-year certificates and degrees; only 6 offered 4-year degrees (AIHEC 2001).

Students with disabilities  top of page

Approximately 46 percent of all students with disabilities enrolled in public 2-year institutions compared with 50 percent of those without disabilities (U.S. ED/NCES 1999b).


[6]  These data are from the National Center for Education Statistics Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study. See U.S. ED/NCES (1997) for a detailed discussion of transfer behavior.

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