If current trends hold, the fall of 2025 will bring the largest and most diverse freshman class to colleges and universities across the U.S.
U.S. births surpassed 4.3 million in 2007 – a number not seen since the post-World War II baby boom, when rates of college enrollment were much lower. If current college admissions trends continue, these youngsters – who are now third-graders – will be America’s largest-ever college freshman class.
They’ll also be the most diverse. Increased enrollment of Hispanic and Asian students is expected due to rates of immigration and births of second-generation immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. Last year, U.S. public schools reached a watershed moment as the number of students of color, overall, surpassed the number of white students for the first time.
The predictions for 2025 only increases the need for college counselors to be fully aware of and able to meet the needs of a culturally diverse student body, says Amy Lenhart, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and president of the American College Counseling Association, a division of the American Counseling Association.
Colleges should prepare for the 2025 enrollment boom with diversity awareness training for all staff, as well as ensuring that campus counseling centers have enough practitioners to meet the needs of a much larger student body, says Lenhart, a counselor at Collin College at Preston Ridge in Frisco, Texas.
“I believe that many colleges will need to focus on having the adequate number of [counseling] staff to address the needs of more students, focus on a more diverse counseling staff, continue to be aware of the needs of more diverse students [and be] aware of the needs of first-generation students,” Lenhart says. “I think that it is and will continue to be important for all counselors to continue to understand the needs of a more diverse population and [the idea] that we are all there to attend to those needs in the best interest of the student/client and work together as professional counselors to ensure the future of mental health and academic success in the college setting.”
It is imperative for counselors who work with college students to be trained not only in student development and mental health, says Lenhart, but cultural competencies as well. College counselors, in turn, can assist in educating college students, faculty and staff about the needs that a more diverse student body may bring to campus.
The Pew Research Center reports that the overall makeup of the nation’s public school graduating class is becoming more and more diverse. In 1995, 73 percent of American public high school graduates were white; that percentage decreased to 57 percent in 2012. For 2025, Pew projects that demographics will shift to a nearly half-and-half ratio, with 49 percent of the graduating class identifying as nonwhite.
Current trends indicate that roughly 70 percent of high school graduates enroll as full-time students at a two- or four-year college, according to Pew.
“How can anyone know what college enrollment will look like a decade into the future?” writes Richard Fry, a senior researcher with the Pew Research Center. “No projection is perfect and there are many unforeseen factors, such as the economy’s performance and how successful parents and schools are in getting students to graduate from high school. But generally, the number of first-time, full-time college freshmen tracks closely with the number of births from 18 years earlier.”
According to Pew, the last peak in college enrollment – 2.5 million first-time, full-time freshmen – occurred in 2009, 18 years after 4.1 million babies were born in 1991. Since then, America’s freshman college class has decreased slightly, to 2.4 million students in 2013.
The 2007 spike in U.S. births did not prove to be a long-term trend, however. Since then, the U.S. birth rate has decreased to less than four million babies annually.
Find the American College Counseling Association online at collegecounseling.org
From the Pew Research Center: “Class of 2025 expected to be biggest, most diverse ever”
ACA members: For resources on college counseling and multiculturalism, visit ACA’s VISTAS collection of peer-reviewed articles: bit.ly/1ODgAQN
Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org