The number of students enrolled in college and the proportion who receive financial aid are both increasing, as are graduation rates, slightly, according to a report of 2010 data published on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.
The "First Look" report, "Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002-7," is based on information from 7,165 institutions that receive Title IV federal student aid.
In the fall of 2010, about 22 million undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled in such institutions, compared with 21 million the previous year. Of the 19 million undergraduates in 2010, 56 percent were enrolled at four-year colleges and 42 percent at two-year institutions.
The vast majority—82 percent—of all first-time, full-time undergraduates in the 2009-10 academic year, of which there were 3.3. million, received some kind of financial aid, and 53 percent of them borrowed, according to the new report. By comparison, the previous year's report showed that about 79 percent of all first-time, full-time undergraduates during the 2008-9 academic year received some kind of aid, and 51 percent took out loans.
On average, students at public four-year colleges paid $16,900 before any grants and $10,200 afterward. At four-year private nonprofit colleges, the average sticker price was $32,700, and the net price was $16,700. And at four-year private for-profit colleges, the average price was $27,900 before grants and $23,800 after.
In all three cases, the initial figures were higher than those in the last national report, but the net amounts were lower, except at for-profit institutions, where the net price was up by about $700.
Just over 58 percent of first-time, full-time degree-seeking students who enrolled at four-year institutions in 2004 had graduated within six years from when they started, whereas 57 percent of students had in last year's report.
Graduation rates varied by institutional type. They were highest in the new report at private nonprofit institutions (65 percent), compared with 56 percent at public colleges and 28 percent at private for-profit institutions.
The report also looked at the characteristics of enrolled students. Almost 63 percent were full-time students and nearly 38 percent were enrolled part-time. Almost three-quarters of first-time, full-time undergraduates stayed in college their first year, compared with 44 percent of part-timers.
Institutional finances were also included in the report. At public four-year institutions, it noted, 19 percent of revenue came from tuition and fees in 2009-10. At private nonprofit colleges, that figure was 33 percent, and at private for-profit institutions, 91 percent.
The report also calculated what share of each type of institution's expenses went toward instruction and other missions. At public four-year institutions, the share for instruction was 30 percent, and at public two-year colleges, 42 percent. Private nonprofit four-year colleges devoted 33 percent of expenses to instruction, and private for-profit four-year institutions, 21 percent.
(This article was updated at 9:45 p.m., 3/27/2012, to clarify the comparisons in the fourth paragraph of student financial-aid data in two consecutive academic years.)