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31 Must-Read College Student Statistics [for 2020]

Are you wondering whether going to college is worth your while? Whether you’ve just graduated from high school or looking to change your career path, enrolling for college could be the best move that you ever made.

Here’s why:

College can be beneficial to you if you’re hoping to enter the workforce. It can also help you experience career satisfaction. 

What’s more:

You can learn specialized skills that can give you a competitive edge in a tough job market. 

So, we’ve gathered the latest college student statistics to help you make an informed decision when it comes to acquiring a college education. 

Fascinating College Student Statistics (Editor’s Picks)

  • There were 76 million children in US schools in 2018.
  • As of 2017, college classroom diversity had increased, compared to 2007. 
  • Female students made up most college students in 2017.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, 22% of undergraduate students were parents.
  • In 2017, the total student loan amount was $1.4 trillion.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, 56% of new college students were first-generation students. 
  • 55% of first-year college students join a school that is 100 miles away from home.

General College Facts and Stats

1. There were 76 million children in US schools in 2018.

(United States Census Bureau)

As of December 2018, the total number of students in the United States right from kindergarten all the way to college was over 75 million. According to a 2018 survey, the college students stats have changed little since 2016. 

The survey only considered students who were three years and older and made up 24.7% of the entire population. 

The findings were:

More students are graduating from high school. When we compare the number of students who graduated from high school in 2007 and 2017, the figures increased by 83.9% and 87.5%.

Hispanic high schoolers showed the most significant improvement, with the percentage of graduates going up from 64.7% in 2007 to an impressive 82% in 2017. 

The stats show that colleges should brace themselves for more enrollments. Adding more resources would be a good idea to accommodate students without over-stressing what is already there.

2. As of 2017, classroom diversity had increased, compared to 2007. 

(United States Census Bureau)

There was a time when white students were the majority in schools. However, according to college student trends, classrooms are now more inclusive race-wise. 

Looking at data from 2007, non-Hispanic white students made up 66.1% of the total population. As of 2017, that figure had dropped to 54.7%.

Here’s a closer look at 2017 data to show how minorities improved in classroom attendance since 2007:

  • The number of Hispanic students grew by 7.3%.
  • Black students increased by 11%.
  • Asians students increased by 2.3%.
  • Other non-Hispanic students increased by 0.8%.

3. Female students made up most college students in 2017.

(National Center for Education Statistics)

It looks like women want to bridge the gender gap when it comes to college attendance. According to statistics about college students, women make up 56% of college students, while men comprise 44% of all college students.

Projections for 2026 show that women are likely to continue outnumbering men by an even broader margin in both public and private institutions.

Why is that?

The thing is:

Before the 1960s, women’s main job was staying home to take care of their families. However, the 1960s and 1970s became a turning point because a few women started showing an interest in attending college. 

By this time, only 37% of females were joining the labor force. Of the 37%, 75% were teachers. In the 1960s, women started balancing careers and childbearing, with 73% of those joining the workforce having kids at home. 

By the late 1970s, women started getting interested in more challenging subjects like science and math and were outperforming their male counterparts. By the 1980s, 70% of women were in employment, and only 36% were teachers. 

By the early 2000s, only 60% of the women joining the workforce had children. That’s because women preferred having children at a later age.  

4. Between 2015 and 2016, 22% of undergraduate students were parents.

(Institute for Women Policy Research)

These days, the education system is more accommodating of college students who are parents. Over one in every five students is a parent. 

Let’s look at the data closely:

According to statistics on college students, 3.8 million students were raising children while attending college between 2015 and 2016. 

However, the number of mothers in college was higher than that of fathers. Fathers in college were just 30% (1.1 million), while mothers made up 70% (2.7 million) of the total parents attending college.

Of the 3.8 million parents in college, 1,662,878 were single mothers, while 439,569 were single fathers. During that same period, married mothers were 1,033,203 while married fathers were 696,276.

5. In 2017, the total student loan amount was $1.4 trillion.


As of 2017, the student loan debt was the highest ever, looking at data from the last 18 years. Data on the average student loan debt shows the figure was $37,172 in 2017.

There are two sources of loans for college students – federal and private. Federal sources have the highest number of loans available to students and also come with various options in terms of repayment plans. 

Private loans come with stricter terms and conditions. To qualify for private credit, a student must have a cosigner or a good credit score. 

As of 2019, 20 million students received loans amounting to a whopping $93 billion. This figure translates to about $9,300 per student.

6. Between 2015 and 2016, 56% of new college students were first-generation students. 

(Center for First-generation Student success)

It looks like more people join college these days than in previous decades. First generation college student statistics show that 56% of undergraduate students in 2015 and 2016 didn’t have parents with a bachelor’s degree. 

24% of students’ parents had also attended no type of post-secondary education. 59% of first-generation students were also the first sibling to go to college. Age-wise, 28% of first-generation students were over 30 years and above. 

The percentage of continuing students who were 30 years and above was much lower, at 16%. Also, 30% of first-generation students had dependents, i.e., children, spouses, or parents. Continuing generations had fewer dependents at 16%. 

7. 55% of first-year students join a college that is 100 miles away from home.

(CBS News)

Students going to school for the first time prefer to stay fairly close to home, college freshman statistics reveal

Wait, there’s more:

Over 37% of newcomers choose a school that is 50 miles away from home. Most of these learners have never been away from home. So, their desire not to be too far from home is perfectly understandable.

College Student Statistics - reading book

College Life Statistics

8. 36% of students were in good health by the fall of 2018.


College students stats from 2018 show that 36% of the total student population of 22.2 million felt healthy. 22% rated their health as poor or fair. 

Students leaving for college are away from their parents’ watchful eyes. With freedom comes a life of drugs and alcohol for some students. 

But here’s some good news:

Most colleges have made it their number one priority to educate students on how to lead a healthy lifestyle on campus. Also, the institutions offer health services to students who might be unwell. 

9. Students with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $45,000.

(Pew Research Center)

You may have heard that some individuals make millions with no college degree. However, less than 1% of the population can make any kind of money without higher education. 

The economy is tough, and everyone needs a job that can enable them to meet their expenses. And a college degree can allow you to do just that. 

Here’s how:

College graduates with bachelor’s degrees earn a median salary of $45,000. Meanwhile, those with high school diplomas only earn a much lower median wage of $28,000. 

According to college student statistics, 21.8% of people with no other certificates apart from a high school diploma are likely to earn a minimum wage. Only 3% of bachelor’s holders are likely to be low-income earners. 

Key takeaway:

Statistics clearly show that college education can change lives for the better.

10. 42% of college students aren’t white. 

(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Non-white students are flooding US colleges, bringing with them cultural diversity. College facts and statistics show that the number of students from other races and cultures is almost half (42%) that of white students. 

11. 40% of the students in colleges are 25 years and above.

(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Are you considering going back to college but worried that everyone else would be around 18 years old? Or perhaps you couldn’t make it to college when younger because you couldn’t afford the fees? 

Well, worry no more. Statistics show that 40% of people in college are 25 years and over. 

The 25-year demographic has an added advantage over their younger peers because, by this age, they’ve already been working. So, they have the practical experience and are looking for supporting credits. 

College Party Statistics

12. 50% of sexual assaults in college are binge drinking-related.

(College Drinking Prevention)

College comes with a lot of freedom. With the liberty to make their own choices, some students end up on the wrong end of the party life.

There are sororities and fraternities, and then there’s peer pressure. If you’ve never come across heavy drinking sessions, college might be the first time that you might get to experience the problem.

Unfortunately, binge drinking comes with a lot of consequences, and one of the most common is rape and risky sexual behavior. 

As you go to college, then, remember the main reasons to go to college statistics, such as:

  • To earn a higher income. 
  • To achieve job satisfaction. 

It’s absolutely vital for students to stay away from binge drinking, which might lead to the contraction of STDs. Also, students that drink heavily may miss lots of classes, drop out of school, have problems with classwork, or become aggressive, which might lead to imprisonment or social issues. 

13. The first six weeks can determine the success of first-year students.

(College Drinking Prevention) 

Do you plan to live in a college dorm? Make your first six weeks count because research shows this is a trying time for new students. 

During this time, there are some initiations which may include heavy drinking. Students in four-year institutions drink more heavily than their counterparts in two-year institutions.

But it’s not all bad:

Best colleges statistics show that commuter students are less likely to partake in heavy drinking. Also, students in larger colleges do not binge drink as much as their peers in smaller colleges.

College Student Statistics - college party

Working College Students Statistics

14. 43% of college students are low-income earners.

(Center on Education and Workforce)

Students want to earn some money while studying. Nearly half of them (43%) do not have what many would consider a high income.

Students who earn less are more likely to work longer hours, which might contribute to college student statistics stress. Remember, these students still have to catch up with classwork, a thing that could be stressful. 

15. 78% of students that earn a high income are white.

(Center on Education and Workforce)

Is higher education contributing to inequality? Well, look at the statistics below and decide for yourself. 

For starters, first-generation students are likely to earn less than continuing generations at 47%. Gender-wise, a whopping 58% of working women students make less money than their male counterparts. 

Over 70% of whites are likely to earn more money compared to other races. Also, 25% of Latinos and 18% of black learners are likely to be low-income earners.  

16. 26% of full-time students work full-time.  

(Center on Education and Workforce)

Looking for a well-paying job without experience can be hard. So, working while in school is helpful. That being said, there’s also a need for a healthy learning-working balance. 

Students who work less than 15 hours/week are less stressed. Also, those working over 15 hours per week are more likely to have a lower grade (C and below). 

College Enrollment Statistics

17. College enrollment in 2017 was at 40%.

(National Center for Education Statistics)

Back in 2000, college registration was at 35%, and 2017 saw a 5% increase. Experts attribute the rise of enrollment to the labor market. 

Companies these days favor those with degrees for higher-paying jobs, which explains the high demand for a college education. 

18. Enrollment for both four and two-year colleges increased between 2000 and 2017. 

(National Center for Education Statistics)

Students have a choice to opt for two-year or four-year colleges. Interesting statistics about college students show that both types of institutions have attracted more students in previous years. 

However, enrolments in four-year institutions are higher than those in two-year institutions. 

19. In 2017, 19.66 million students enrolled in US colleges.


Of the 19.66 million college students, 14.56 million were in public institutions, while the balance (5.1 million) was in private colleges. 

You might wonder: 

“How many college students in the US?” 

Here’s the answer:

According to 2028 forecasts, these numbers are likely to increase. 

Students in state colleges will increase to 14.98 million, while those in private institutions will increase to 5.33 million. Since 2007, the figures have increased by about a million students in both public and private colleges – i.e., from 13.49 million and 4.76 million, respectively. 

It’s good to see that there’s something for everyone here. Both private funders and the government are giving options to students, depending on their pockets. State colleges are cheaper than donor-funded colleges. 

20. 89% of high school students who go to higher-income high schools are likely to go back to college for a second year. 

(National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

According to the percentage of high school graduates that go to college in 2019, learners from high-income students are likely to go back to college for the second year. Students from low-income schools have a lower likelihood of going back. 

The percentages of probability to go back for the second year were 89% and 79%, respectively. 

21. As of 2017, 74% of students had enrolled in public colleges.


What is the percentage of students in public schools?

Here’s the answer:

As of 2017, there were 19.66 million children enrolled for college. Out of the total, 74% had enrolled in public schools, while 26% had enrolled in private schools. 

22. The University of Phoenix-Online Campus had the highest enrollment in 2020.


College enrollment statistics by university show that the University of Phoenix-Online Campus had the highest number of new students (212,044). According to the statistics, the figure has remained the same since 2015. 

Western Governors University came in second, with 121,437 enrolments in 2020. Compared to 2015, the university had a 159.9% increase. Southern New Hampshire University came in third, with 104,068 enrollments in 2020. The university showed the most significant increase since 2015, at a mind-blowing 266.6%.  

23. 50% of first-generation students are likely to join a community college. 


Compared to new students with college-educated parents, half of the first-generation students prefer to go to community college. In contrast, only 25% of continuing generation students join community colleges.

Only 7% of the students are likely to enroll in a private college. Just 26% of them go to four-year institutions. 

24. Freedom University now enrolls undocumented college-going minors.

(The Hechinger Report)

College student trends 2018 show there were around 690,000 minors in the country illegally at the time. Many of these youngsters had escaped war and political unrest in their countries. 

The United States, through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law (DACA), granted the kids temporary rights to stay in the country.

With no money to study, these youngsters go through a rough time trying to get ane education. Luckily, some cities like Atlanta are assisting these students. For instance, Atlanta’s Freedom University offers tuition remission.

25. Almost half of Generation Z who started college in 2019 were ethnic or racial minorities.

(Inside Track)

College student trends 2019 show that Gen Zers entering university were more diverse both ethnically and racially. Also, this new generation seems to be education-focused, with 59% joining college. 

26. Students are now seeking more accreditation besides traditional college degrees.

(Lumina Foundation)

College degrees are still relevant, but what is trending with college students these days is additional certificates. Students now want more out of college, and examples here include industry-specific certificates or badges. 

College Student Statistics - student

Crazy College Statistics

27. 1,920,718 people graduated with a bachelor’s degree between 2015 and 2016.


College statistics show that almost two million (1,920,718) people graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree during the 2015-2016 academic year. Most of the graduates during that year were women (57%).

59% of women also obtained a master’s degree, while only 41% got degrees at that same level. Forecasts showed that there would be about 3,900,000 college graduates by the 2019-2020 academic year.  

28. The US has some of the most renowned universities around the globe.


College student trends show that the United States has some of the leading universities in the world.

Some top performers here are:

  • Brown plus Dartmouth
  • Columbia
  • Cornel
  • Harvard
  • Yale 
  • Princeton
  • UPenn
  • MIT

29. A bachelor’s degree has the potential to earn a graduate $2.3 million over their lifetime.

(Center on Education and Workforce)

You might have heard that college is expensive. But have you ever asked yourself the question: 

“Why is college important statistics-wise?”  

College pays off in the long run. Back in 2002, having a high school diploma almost had the same value as a college degree.


Things have changed by a wide margin since 2002. A bachelor’s degree is 85% better than a high school diploma. With a bachelor’s degree, you’re likely to earn $2.3 million over a lifetime. A high school graduate should expect to make $973,000. 

Lifetime earnings go even higher for students with higher qualifications. Master’s graduates earn $2.6 million, doctoral graduates make $3.2 million, while those with professional degrees end up earning $3.6 million. 

Trends in Higher Education

30. Capital campaigning has been gaining momentum in recent years.

(Northeastern University)

Unlike earlier, colleges do not receive a lot of state funding. According to college trends 2019, they have to rely on funds from private donors. For the colleges to attract the attention of private funders, they now take part in capital campaigns. 

31. Most community colleges are experiencing a decline in enrollments in 2020.

(Precision Campus)

When there’s a lot of uncertainty in the economy, a lot of students enroll in community colleges since they’re cheaper. College trends 2020 show that there will be fewer enrollments in these colleges because the 2019 economy was healthy.

Final Thoughts

The college student statistics above reveal important trends for both the institutions of higher learning and students hoping to join. They can help colleges identify things like inequalities and deal with them accordingly. Also, forecasts can help colleges plan for the future.

What’s more:

Students can learn what to expect once they get to college and look for ways to avoid some situations such as binge drinking. Students can also determine the institutions that best suit them and the best type of funding to acquire if the need arises. 


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