Published on May 1, 2023

Expanding Enrollment Across Communities and Institutions

Enrollment in higher education should reflect the diversity of our state, and numbers are still rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanding equitable access to higher education today will position Texas to compete in the global economy of tomorrow.

Higher education must meet the needs of a changing population.

Postsecondary education is increasingly important for students’ future roles in the workforce and state economy. Experts estimate that by 2030, at least 62% of jobs in Texas will require some postsecondary education (Carnevale, et al., 2022).

Today’s student body is tomorrow’s workforce. Texas added nearly 4 million new residents between 2010 and 2020, with over 95% of that growth occurring within historically underserved communities of color (United States Census Bureau, 2021).

Enrollment rates among these communities are statistically lower than average (THECB, 2019). Improving these rates is critical to achieving our goals for Building a Talent Strong Texas.

Enrollment has increased among Hispanic/Latino students and Asian students.

In the five years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Hispanic/Latino students and number of Asian students enrolling in higher education increased, while the number of White students trended downward. The number of African American/Black students saw virtually no change.

Trends like these affect the makeup of the student population. In 2015, White students and Hispanic/Latino students represented nearly equal shares of roughly 36%. By 2020, they were separated by almost 8 percentage points, with Hispanic/Latino the most represented group (40.6%). This is despite each group comprising roughly 40% of the overall Texas population (United States Census Bureau, 2022).

Women have increased their share of enrollment.

Significantly more women are enrolled at postsecondary institutions compared to men. Rather than being unique to Texas, this is a global trend that has persevered for decades. The state population is split more or less evenly between males and females, so ideally men and women should be enrolling at near equal rates as well.

Community and technical colleges were most affected by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected enrollment unevenly across institutions. While all public postsecondary institutions experienced a decline, it was far more pronounced at community, technical, and state colleges. (The effects were uneven within that category as well; view the dashboard at the bottom of this page to explore granular data.)

Enrollment at health-related institutions (HRIs) increased during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Where public universities held relatively steady from fall 2019 to fall 2020 enrollments, HRI enrollments grew by more than 3 percentage points. They grew again in fall 2021 by another 3 percentage points.

This is different from what usually happens. Enrollment at two-year institutions tends to rise in response to economic upheaval because people lose their jobs and need affordable ways to acquire new qualifications. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy dipped and then surged in response to federal relief. The labor market had more open jobs than available workers. At the same time, there was general uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, and evidence suggests students who were preparing to attend college delayed or canceled their plans. This may explain why fewer people enrolled at community colleges in the early 2020s.

More students enroll part time.

Since 2015, part-time enrollment has been consistently higher than full-time enrollment. As above, the overall picture is skewed by enrollment at community and technical colleges, where a vast majority of students attend part time.

Although part-time enrollment at two-year institutions is unsurprising — and is a ​​vital option for many students — we would like to see more students enrolling full time. Full-time students graduate at higher rates and in less time, which increases their prospects for future employment and earning potential (THECB, 2021).

Take a deep dive with our interactive enrollment dashboard (two-year institutions).

The following dashboard provides a deeper dive into state enrollment data for community, technical, and state colleges. You can view institution-level details and explore data trends by year, semester, and academic program. As you can see, the COVID-19 pandemic caused enrollment in academic majors to drop severely, while bachelor and technical majors were nearly untouched.