Today's third graders will be part of the largest, most diverse high school class in history, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. Mario Tama AFP/Getty

College Enrollment Tracks with the Number of Births 18 Years Earler

Today’s third graders could be part of the least homogenous college freshman class in the nation’s history.

According to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center, more than 4.3 million babies were born in 2007—the highest figure the country had seen since 1957. In 10 years, these children are set to make up the largest, most heterogeneous high school graduating class ever. About half of 2025 high school graduates will be children of color. A full quarter are expected to be Latino.

There are some variables that could shift the makeup of the college-going population, however. Tuition is increasingly expensive, limiting who can afford to pursue a degree and potentially even which families think higher education is worth the investment. The economy could also fluctuate. It is clear, however, that the high school classrooms and college lecture halls of 10 years from now will educate a different, more varied population of students than they do today.

If trends hold, most of the children born eight years ago will become college students. As Pew senior researcher Richard Fry points out, a projection is by nature imperfect, but demographic trends suggest that not only will there be more college freshmen in 10 years, there will be more Hispanic and Asian college students.

High School Graduates Increasingly Diverse

Immigration is one reason, but another driving factor is that more U.S.-born children of immigrants will likely pursue higher education.

There are some variables that could shift the makeup of the college-going population, however. Tuition is increasingly expensive, limiting who can afford to pursue a degree and potentially even which families think higher education is worth the investment. The economy could also fluctuate. It is clear, however, that the high school classrooms and college lecture halls of 10 years from now will educate a different, more varied population of students than they do today.

This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

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