Older African Americans Are Flocking to College

Whether the person is white or black, the common vision Americans have of an entering college student is that of an 18-year-old recent high school graduate. But this is not the case, especially for African Americans.

In October 2005, according to a new Census Bureau report, there were 970,000 African Americans ages 25 and over who were enrolled in higher education. This was 42.2 percent of all black students who were enrolled in college or graduate school. In 2005 some 4.5 percent of the entire African-American population over the age of 25 was enrolled in higher education. In contrast, only 3.1 percent of the entire white population over the age of 25 was enrolled in college or graduate school.

If we raise the threshold to 35 years or older, we find 449,000 African Americans who were enrolled in higher education. They make up 19.5 percent of all African-American college students. Some 2.8 percent of all blacks over the age of 35 were enrolled in college or graduate school compared to 1.8 percent of whites over the age of 35.

If we increase the threshold even more, we find that there were more than 200,000 blacks over the age of 45 who were enrolled in higher education. This is double the number of older blacks who were enrolled in higher education a decade ago. Blacks over the age of 45 are almost twice as likely as similarly aged whites to be enrolled in higher education.