Class of 2025 could be the largest and most diverse on record

Researchers point to high birth rate in 2007, high school graduation likeliness

A high number of births in 2007 and greater numbers of Asian and Hispanic students will affect future student demographics, Richard Fry reports for Pew Research Center's '"Fact Tank."

Economic trends and other factors make predicting the exact class size difficult, Fry acknowledges. But the birth rate can be one indicator.

Is college enrollment on the verge of rebounding?

In 2007, U.S. births topped 4.3 million—the highest since 1957. And because more people attend college today, the 2007 peak will likely produce the largest incoming freshman class ever in 2025, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

High school demographics can also provide some clues; since the Great Recession, about 70% of high school graduates first-time, full-time freshman at either a two- or four-year schools.

Based on that data, the incoming class of 2025 is also likely to be the most diverse group ever. By 2025, the public high school graduating class will only be 51% white, down from 57% in 2012 and 73% in 1995. Asian and Hispanic students will make up a larger proportion of students than they do now.

However, Fry notes that currently Hispanic students are the least likely of major ethic and racial groups to attend college, so it is unclear how many will go on to attend college in 2025.

Colleges have dealt with admissions bubbles before. The children of Baby Boomers and the recession drove a wave of admissions in 2009, peaking at 2.5 million. By 2013, the number of admissions had fallen to 2.4 million (Fry, "Fact Tank," Pew Research Center, 9/11).

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