IHE Enrollment Trends in Texas: Demographic Data

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recently published more granular enrollment data for all public universities in Texas, providing the first insight into how COVID-19 affected student enrollment across demographic groups. In the previous blog post, we showed that statewide enrollment at public universities increased from 657,985 in fall 2019 to 667,046 in fall 2020, which represents a 1.4% gain in enrollment. This increase also reversed a one-year dip in university-wide enrollment across the state, as there was a 234 headcount drop from fall 2018 to fall 2019. The remainder of this blog will dig more deeply into enrollment trends based on level of enrollment and demographic variables across Texas, within public university systems, and at public universities.

University Enrollments by Level

As introduced in the previous blog post, we are once again presenting visualizations by using tabs that provide different views of the data under consideration. For example, the first tab, labeled STATEWIDE (2015-2020) at the top of the visualization below, shows statewide data broken down by level of enrollment. Within each fall semester (shown on the x-axis), undergraduate student enrollment across public universities in Texas has comprised roughly 80% of overall enrollment each year, as the over 44,000 headcount increase from 2015 to 2020 represents a 9% increase in undergraduate enrollment. The graduate enrollment has grown as well, but at a much more moderate rate, increasing by almost 4,200 students since 2015 for a 3.5% gain in graduate enrollment across Texas. The smallest portion of the stacked bar chart represents the group of students who are enrolled as post-baccalaureate students, a segment that annually comprises about 1.5% of overall enrollment at Texas public universities.

The second tab, SYSTEMS (2015 & 2020), shows the same data as in the STATEWIDE tab, but broken down by the six public university systems in Texas, with the public independent universities grouped together. At the top of the visualization sits the University of Texas System (UTS), which grew by more than 20,000 students overall from 2015 to 2020, representing a 9.9% increase. Approximately 90% of the UTS growth occurred at the undergraduate level, which increased by more than 18,000 students, or 11.4%. The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) saw a 6.4% increase from 2015 to 2020 overall, including a 10,000-plus gain at the undergraduate level, representing a 9.4% growth. The largest percentage growth was at the Texas Tech University System (TTUS), which grew by over 14% from 2015 to 2020.

Similar views for each public university in Texas are shown through a succession of tabs at the top of the visualizations that group public universities in Texas by enrollment bands (i.e., “<5K”, “5K-10K”, “10K-15K”, etc.). Clicking on the tabs will show the university-level enrollment trends from 2015 to 2020.

Demographic Representation


In reviewing the statewide trends at the undergraduate level in the first table below (STATEWIDE (DEMOS – UG)), one of the initial findings that is clear is that Hispanic students comprise the highest percentage of undergraduate enrollment across public universities in Texas at over 39% in 2020. In the left column under “Female” students, you can see that Hispanic female students have been the highest enrollment group for the past four fall terms, increasing by more than 27,000 students since 2015, which is a growth of almost 29%. What has also grown for Hispanic females is the overall share of undergraduate enrollment, represented by the percentage calculation shown below each of the counts in the different cells of the table. For example, in 2015, Hispanic female students represented 19.5% of all undergraduate enrollment at public universities in Texas; in 2020, that percentage had increased to 23%. Hispanic male students have also increased by more than 13,000 headcount since 2015, as the share of undergraduate enrollment held has increased from 15.1% in 2015 to 16.3% in 2020. By comparison, the percentage of White students enrolled at the undergraduate level has dropped from 39.9% in 2015 to 34.5% in 2020, as the total number of White undergraduates enrolled has drop by more than 10,000 students. The African-American student population has grown by over 3,300 students since 2015, but the percentage of the overall undergraduate population who are African-Americans has dropped from 12.2% in 2015 to 11.9% in 2020.


 At the graduate student level (STATEWIDE (DEMOS – GR)), White female students (24.5%) and Hispanic female students (15.5%) are the top-two groups for share of enrollment statewide, while White students (14.6%) were the highest category of male students in 2020. As with undergraduate enrollment, Hispanic female students have seen the highest numeric and percentage increase of any group of graduate students, increasing by more than 6,000 students, or 46.8%, from 2015 to 2020. Hispanic male students have also increased at the graduate level, growing by more than 2,400 students, or 32.5%, from 2015 to 2020. African-American female student enrollment has grown by 1,600 students, or 19%, while African-American male student enrollment has increased by over 11% at the graduate level since 2015. The largest drop in graduate enrollment has been with International students, which have collectively seen a decrease of almost 10,000 students, representing a 33% decline in International graduate student enrollment since 2015.


As opposed to showing all combinations of student level, sex, and race/ethnicity for each public university system, the third tab below (SYSTEMS (DEMOS)) shows the top 3 enrollment groups as a combination of sex and race/ethnicity.  The color-coding is based on percentage of enrollment for each combination, with the darkest (black) representing the highest percentages and the lightest (yellow) representing the lowest percentages across the entire distribution of categories at each level (undergraduate and graduate). For reference, the top-3 combinations for all public universities in Texas are included in the “Statewide” data at the top of the table.

Across the seven system groupings, Hispanic female students have the highest percentage of undergraduate enrollment at two systems (UTS – 28.6% and UHS – 24.8%), while White female students have the highest percentage of undergraduate enrollment at the other five system groups (TAMUS – 22.7%, TSUS – 25.1%, TTUS – 27.0%, Independents – 27.4%, and UNTS – 19.8%). At the graduate level, White female students are the highest percentage of graduate enrollment across all seven system groups, ranging from 19.4% at UTS to 35.2% at Independents. Hispanic female students were the second-highest percentage of graduate enrollment at three system groups (UTS – 18.4%, TSUS – 18.0%, and UHS – 13.3%), as White male students were the second-highest percentage at three groups (TAMUS – 18.5%, TTUS – 20.9%, and UNTS – 18.0%), and African-American female students were the second-highest percentage at one group (Independents – 20.1%).


So What?

When discussing the demographic composition of any organization, it is important to contextualize that organizational composition within the broader demographics of the population at large. At the undergraduate level, student enrollment trends are often compared to the trends being seen in the traditional college-going age group of 18-24 year-olds.  Based on the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates, 51.4% of the 18-24 year-old population in Texas were females, as compared to 56% of total undergraduate enrollment at public universities being female in 2020. While Hispanic students represented 39.3% of the undergraduate population in 2020, Hispanics comprised 45.2% of the statewide group of 18-24 year-olds. White undergraduate students and the comparison population were essentially equal (34.5% and 34.6%, respectively). African-American undergraduate students were 11.9% of the undergraduate population in 2020, while 12.7% of the 18-24 year-old population was African-American in the ACS data. Although these whole-group comparisons seem to indicate gaps remain between the college-going population in Texas and the composition of the Hispanic and African-American undergraduate students enrolled at public universities in Texas, a closer look at the data show that Hispanic females (23% in 2020) and African-American females (7.4% in 2020) exceed their general 18-24 year-old population averages (22.1% for Hispanic females and 6.2% for African-American females). Where the gaps exist are for male students, with Hispanic males (16.3% vs 23.1%), White males (15.9% vs 17.9%), and African-American males (4.5% vs 6.5%) all seeing multiple-point gaps in undergraduate enrollment compared to the 18-24 year-old comparison population in Texas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *