Enrollment by Level of Enrollment and Attendance Status over Time

Public two-year colleges enrolled about 1 million fewer students in fall 2016 than in fall 2010 (a decline of 12%), and for-profit institutions enrolled about 840,000 fewer students (a decline of 42%) over this period. But both sectors enrolled more students in 2016 than they did in 2005.

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

Notes & Sources 

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.

  • 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.