Today's Students come from all walks of life, taking charge of their own educational journey.

The educational journeys of today’s students are as diverse
as their backgrounds and lived experiences.

  1. Diverse in age, race, and income level

    34% are older than 25, 42% are not white alone, and the increasingly first-generation and low-income student population experience challenges with basic needs insecurity.


    Identify as a race other than white

  2. Commuting from off-campus housing

    Just 16% of undergraduates live on campus, with their peers commuting to campus, engaging in schooling online, or both.


    live on campus

  3. Balancing enrollment and employment

    51% are enrolled part-time, and students who are enrolled part-time are typically working more hours per week than their full-time peers.


    are enrolled part-time

  4. Responsible for family affairs beyond the classroom

    22% of undergraduates are parents, responsible for their own success — as well as the livelihood of their families.


    are parents

How do Today’s Students differ from yesterday’s?

Two-Year Enrollment


Undergraduate students attend a two-year college






First-generation students





Reference (p. 16)


Pell Grants

Students identify as a race other than white





Parenting Students

KEY - year (number of student parents) percentage of the undergraduate population

2004 (3.7M)

2012 (4.8M)

2016 (3.8M)




Please note that the data listed here should not be directly compared to those listed above as the years are not aligned.

Although there was a rapid increase in enrollment between 2004 and 2012, the numbers have since declined.

Voices of Today's Students logo
Student Voices video of Aya Waller-Bey
Aya Waller-Bey

Georgetown University

Aya is a first-generation college student who navigated the federal student aid process, which presented several challenges due to her family’s circumstances.

Student Voices video of Bri Sislo-Schutta
Bri Sislo-Schutta

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Bri’s firsthand experience as a student enrolled in college during COVID-19 amplifies the unique needs of today’s students and how the pandemic affected student populations differently

Student Voices video of Michaela Martin
Michaela Martin

University of LaVerne in California

Michaela is a parent and law school student whose advocacy work revealed a dearth of data on parenting students in her state.

Student Voices video of Drayton Jackson
Drayton Jackson

Olympic College

Drayton is a parenting student who had to delay his educational goals to work due to financial uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

How do Today’s Students attend college?

Institution Types

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of undergraduate students attend a two-year college
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of undergraduate students attend a public college or university

Learning Modality

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of undergraduate students have taken at least one online course
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of undergraduate students were exclusively enrolled in distance education during the peak of the pandemic
Transfer Status


of students transfer to at least one different institution in their postsecondary career

Transfer Students

  • Students lose, on average, one semester's worth of coursework when they transfer colleges.

  • Those at two-year colleges are the most likely to transfer at least once.

  • The most common transfer type is from a public two-year institution to a public four-year institution.

What Challenges Do Today’s Students Face?

Basic Needs Insecurity

Experience housing insecurity
Were homeless in the past year
Experience food insecurity
Receive SNAP benefits
Receive emergency aid
Average emergency aid per student
Did not apply for support because they did not know how

Additional Identities



Are first-generation students



At postsecondary institutions are veterans

Sexual Orientation


Identify as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual

Gender Identity


Identify as transgender or gender nonconforming

Additional Statistics

Especially in the wake of COVID-19, today's students share one common theme: overcoming barriers and hardships of their own on their way to higher learning.

Mental Health
  • 35% have at least moderate anxiety
  • 14% reported worsening mental health during and after the pandemic

  • 454K undocumented students are enrolled in higher education
  • 216K undocumented students are DACA*-eligible

Financial Status

51% of undergraduate students are financially independent


62% complete a degree or credential within six years of enrolling

Get the entire resource: Today’s Students 101

State Profiles

State profiles feature key data points, visual infographics, and brief explanations of all 50 states, and are a quick and easy resource for policymakers, analysts and media.

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