In this report we find that the majority of Americans enrolling in higher education today do not match the mainstream image of recent high school graduates leaving home for the first time to settle into dorm life at a residential university campus. In 2012, only 12 percent of college students lived on campus. In fact, over four in ten college students in this country attend community colleges. In the fall of 2012, the public two-year sector enrolled 6.8 million undergraduates at over 1,000 institutions nationwide, more than any other higher education sector.
This report indicates that often overlooked in conversations about college that tend to focus on elite, residential, four-year schools, community colleges occupy a critical space in higher education. Community college students not only make up a greater proportion of the college-going population than typically recognized, but they differ markedly in their demographic composition compared to the public four-year and private nonprofit sectors of higher education. Community college students are more likely to be older, commute to school, and care for dependents. They are also much more likely to attend part time and need remediation. In terms of racial and socioeconomic demographics, community college students are more diverse and lower-income than their four-year counterparts.