College-Age Cohort To Diminish

March 2, 2008
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The college-age cohort is expected to peak this year and in 2009, and it will be 2017 to 2019 before the numbers bounce back up, said Steven Graff, director of admissions and enrollment services for The College Board in Washington, D.C.

While the numbers may recover nationally, U.S. Census Bureau projections show a continued decline in that age group in Michigan right through 2050. The decline is expected to be less severe than what colleges faced in the early 1980s, but the recovery will be different, he said.

The Census Bureau projects a steady population of around 10.5 million for the state for the next 40 years. But the 18- to 24-year-old cohort is expected to continue its slip, from 1 million in 2010 to 913,222 in 2020 to 897,581 in 2050.

“The challenge is the population is changing as it recovers,” Graff said, with growth in the proportion of Hispanic students.

Census projections indicate that nationally, the Hispanic population is projected at 15.5 percent in 2010 and 17.8 percent in 2020, while the proportions of non-Hispanic whites is expected to shrink from 65 percent to 61.3 percent; of blacks, to grow only from 13.1 percent to 13.5 percent; and Asians, from 4.6 percent to 5.4 percent.

In Michigan, census projections put the Hispanic population at 355,000 in 2015 and 431,000 in 2025, a 21.4 percent growth rate.

“The institutions I think are going to be most challenged are the smaller private colleges,” Graff added. “They generally tend to be very regional in their draws. It’s going to be harder and harder for them to get the same number of students, unless they are doing things to change the kinds of students they are attracting.”

That might include different programs or outreach to local or Hispanic communities.

“Michigan schools will probably continue to look at the metro areas within a two- to three-hour range: Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, places like that,” Graff said. “It’s going to be harder and harder for them to get the same number of students, unless they are doing things to change the kinds of students they’re attracting.”

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