Diversity of Community College Students in 7 Charts
New data from the U.S. Department of Education gives insights to the diversity of community college students.
Community college students make up over one-third of all undergraduate students. Nearly two-thirds of undergraduates have attended a community college at some point after high school. Many in the community college sector know that today’s students are typically older, racially diverse, likely to attend part-time, and likely to have family responsibilities. New data from the 2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), by the U.S. Department of Education, highlights these student characteristics.
This article presents data from the recently released survey, comparing relevant trends over time and between the community college sector (2-year public institutions) and all postsecondary institutions.[i]
Community college leaders must take notice of these new data and trends in order to have a firm understanding of students across the sector nationwide and make informed decisions about students’ needs to access and complete their postsecondary education.
1. In 2016, approximately one-third of community college students received a federal Pell Grant. However, this number has slightly decreased in recent years and is slightly lower than the percentage of Pell recipients across all institutions.
2. In 2016, most community college students attended classes part-time. The percentage of part-time students at community colleges was over 1.5 times that of the percentage across all postsecondary institutions. In addition to part-time students, one-fifth of students attended a mix of full- and part-time.
3. While most community college students fell in to the “traditional” 18-24 age range, in 2016, almost half of students were older adults age 25-59. Compared to all institutions, community colleges serve a much larger share of adult students. In 2016, 27 years old was the average age of community college students.
4. Women made up the majority of community college students. The approximately 45% male, 55% female composition of community students has remained constant since 2008 and is similar to postsecondary institutions overall.
5. The percentage of Hispanic community college students is increasing. In 2016, Hispanic students made up nearly a quarter of community college students, up 10 percentage points from 2008. White students are still the majority of community college students; however, the percentage has decreased by 10 percentage points since 2008. Students who identified as Black or African American continue to make up approximately 15% of community college students.
6. In 2016, over a quarter of community college students had their own dependent children. However, the share of students with children decreased from 2008-2016. Students with dependents are likely to have young children. In 2016, 15% of community college students had a dependent 6 years old or younger.
7. Nearly one-third of community college students are the first-generation to attend college. First-generation students are a large share of community college students; however, the percentage has decreased in recent years. Despite the decrease, there is a larger share of first-generation students at community colleges than across all postsecondary institutions. (Note: For this analysis, first-generation students are defined as those whose parents have not completed any postsecondary education beyond high school.)
Allison Beer is the Senior Policy Analyst for ACCT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] All calculations based on author’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). For more information about specific survey variables and methods, contact the author at email@example.com.