Illustrated infographic detailing five changing demographics in higher education.

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5 Changing Demographics in Higher Education [Transcript]

The state of higher education has drastically changed in recent years and decades. Online courses and learning materials have altered higher learning, but one of the most drastic shifts is found in the students themselves. Here are some of the most noticeable demographic trends for this population.

Increasing racial diversity

Diversity in America continues to rise, with all racial and ethnic minorities growing faster than the non-Hispanic Caucasian segment from 2015 to 2016, according to a recent snapshot of the national population by the U.S. Census Bureau. Asian and multiracial individuals are currently the fastest growing segment of the population at 3 percent. The Hispanic population grew by 2 percent and the African-American population by 1.7 percent. (1)

Language diversity

Over 500 languages are spoken in the United States. Now more than 12 percent of Americans speak Spanish as their primary language. According to the 2016 U.S. Census, the primary languages spoken at home are:

  1. English only – 237.8 million
  2. Spanish – 40.5 million
  3. Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese) – 3.4 million
  4. Tagalog (including Filipino) – 1.7 million
  5. Vietnamese – 1.5 million
  6. Arabic – 1.2 million
  7. French – 1.2 million
  8. Korean – 1.1 million
  9. Russian – 0.91 million
  10. German – 0.91 million (6)

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More women in college

Women have surpassed men in terms of advanced degrees. 10.6 million American women have master’s degrees or higher, compared to 10.5 million men. (2) In 2017, women comprised more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year.

Non-traditional students

A greater number of students are nontraditional students, meaning they’re age 25 or older. According to Statmats, more than 47 percent of students who are currently enrolled in post-secondary education are older than 25. Non-traditional students are more likely to take evening and weekend classes and take 25 percent or more of their courses online. (4)

Dropping population

According to Nathan D. Grawe, author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, the economic downturn that started in 2008 led people to delay starting families and to a decline in birth rate. He estimates that by 2026, the number of college-age students in the U.S. will have dropped by 15 percent. (5)