Something else that's bigger in Texas? College enrollment.

Why has Texas been spared an enrollment crunch affecting colleges and universities across the United States?

A biannual report by the National Student Research Clearinghouse based on spring 2017 data reveals a nationwide 1.5% decline in college enrollment. The decline is particularly acute for institutions in the Midwest and Northeast, writes Shalina Chatlani for Education Dive.

Institutions in Michigan, New York, and California had among the largest enrollment declines in the country—each losing between 18,000 and 20,000 students at their respective colleges and universities, Lindsay Ellis writes for the Houston Chronicle. Lower enrollments in these regions are due to dips in birth rates and lower numbers of high school graduates that institutions typically recruit.

But institutions in the southern and western regions of the United States have mostly not experienced such declines. Texas has seen a 1.7% increase in enrollment since spring 2016. There, demographic trends among prospective students have meant greater numbers of:

  • Hispanic high school graduates, many of which are concentrated in Texas and the immediate region;
  • First-generation college students; and
  • Low-income students.

Texas colleges and universities have been particularly proactive about responding to local demographic trends by recruiting these traditionally underrepresented student populations, Ellis reports.

One way that four-year institutions have accomplished this is by partnering with community colleges. The strategy has worked for Texas Southern University (TSU), according to its new president, Austin Lane. TSU saw a 5.75% increase in enrollment between spring 2016 and spring 2017, which TSU officials partially attribute to a 47% rise in community college transfers.

Lane says relationships with local community colleges will continue to play a "pivotal" role in TSU's enrollment strategy (which includes increasing enrollment by 15,000 students by 2020).

But partnerships don't have to stop there. Institutions can also partner with K-12 schools to recruit greater numbers of minority students, Chatlani argues (Chatlani, Education Dive, 7/5; Ellis, Houston Chronicle, 7/3; Ellis, Houston Chronicle, 3/14).

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