A recession-era boom in the size of freshman classes at four-year colleges, community colleges and trade schools has been driven largely by a sharp increase in minority student enrollment, according to Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the US Department of Education.
Hispanics, Blacks Contribute Most Freshman Growth
Freshman enrollment at the nation’s 6,100 post-secondary institutions surged by 144,000 students from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008. This 6% increase was the largest in 40 years, and almost three-quarters of it came from minority freshman enrollment growth.
From 2007 to 2008 (the first year of the recession), the freshman enrollment of Hispanics at post-secondary institutions grew by 15%, of blacks by 8%, of Asians by 6% and of whites by 3%.
Pew analysis indicates that some of this minority enrollment surge is a byproduct of demographic change. Each year, the pool of college-aged Americans contains a larger share of minorities. In addition, the first year of the recession (2007) was a time when young Hispanics, in particular, were completing high school at record rates.
According to Census Bureau surveys, the Hispanic high school completion rate reached an all-time high of 70% in October 2008. This was up 2.5 percentage points from 67.5% in October 2007 and a larger increase than for any other racial or ethnic group.
Freshman Classes Contain Fewer Whites
Minority college students tend to be clustered more at community colleges and trade schools than at four-year colleges. Even so, the minority freshman enrollment spike from 2007 to 2008 occurred at all basic levels of post-secondary education.
The makeup of the freshman class at the nation’s less-than-four-year colleges and universities dropped from 55% white in 2007 to 53% white in 2008. Similarly, the composition of the freshman class at four-year schools dropped from 64% white in 2007 to 62% white in 2008.
Hispanics Create More than Half of Food Growth
In addition to being the largest driver of college enrollment growth, Hispanics have also become the most important U.S. demographic growth driver in the food, beverage and restaurant sectors, according to data from Hispanic market research firm Latinum Network.
The US Hispanic segment made up more than 50% of real US food, beverage and restaurant growth between 2005 and 2008, generating $52 billion of new inflation-adjusted spending. In contrast, non-Hispanics generated $40 billion of new inflation adjusted spending during the same period. This means that between 2005 and 2008, Hispanics accounted for 57.7% of sales growth in the food, beverage and restaurant sector.
Latinum analysis indicates this growth can be attributed primarily to an increase in the number of US Hispanic households, and secondly to an increase in consumer spending among US Hispanics (which should likely continue rising as more Hispanics obtain college degrees and increase their earning potential).