Who Goes to College?

In a 2007 study "Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society", the College Board found that when it comes to college students there are significant differences in age, gender, and race.

There is no set age one has to be to go to college, and while traditionally one goes to college right after graduating high school it is not always the case. According to the study, the enrollment rate among traditional-age college students has steadily increased with almost 50 percent of college students being between the ages of 18 and 21. Also, since 2000 the enrollment rates of all age groups under 30 have been higher than they have even been. A little less than 30 percent of students are within the ages of 22 to 24, and a little more than 10 percent are between the ages of 25 to 29. When it comes to getting an education sometimes it is better late than never, still the highest age range of college students, 30 to 34, has the lowest enrollment rate at less than 10 percent.

The study reported that in 1967 the college enrollment rate for men, 58 percent, exceeded that for women, 47 percent, by more than 10 percentage points. Still, the idea that higher education is only something that men should pursue is certainly a thing of the past. In 2005 of the high school graduates who directly enrolled in college 70 percent were female and 67 percent were male. Among the traditional-age college students, those 18 to 24 years old, 49 percent were females compared to 45 percent of males. This is not surprising considering that the proportion of female high school graduates enrolling in college directly after high school has exceeded that of males since 1988.

The college enrollment rates among whites are higher than those among African Americans and Hispanics. According to the study, in 2005 of the high school graduates who directly enrolled in college 71 percent were white, 59 percent were African American, and 58 percent were Hispanic. Unfortunately, when it comes to the gaps between races in immediate college enrollment rates, they are increasing rather than decreasing. The study found that the gap between white and African American high school graduates has increased to 12 percentage points in 2005, compared to eight in the late 1990s. The gap between white and Hispanic high school graduates has increased from six to nine percentage points in the early 1990s to 10 to 13 percentage points in 2005.