The U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that U.S. college enrollment dropped by 463,000 people from 2012 to 2013, and has fallen by about 930,000 over the last two years.
As of 2013, there were 19.5 million college students, compared with about 20.4 million two years earlier. Census said that two-year drop is larger than any decline it's seen from 1966 up until the Great Recession.
"The drop-off in total college enrollment the last two years follows a period of expansion: between 2006 and 2011, college enrollment grew by 3.2 million," said Kurt Bauman of the Census Bureau.
The report did not try to explain the huge decline in college attendance, although the soaring costs of higher education could be a factor, especially given the stagnant many American families face.
However, the report indicated that cost may not be a major factor, as it said the drop in attendance was mostly a result of students not attending community colleges, which are usually much less expensive than traditional four-year schools.
Specifically, Census said community or junior colleges saw enrollment fall 10 percent from 2012 to 2013, while enrollment at four-year schools rose slightly, by 1 percent.
It said a drop-off in Hispanic attendance also appears to be a factor, and said that decline contributed to reduced enrollment in junior colleges.
"Hispanic college enrollment stopped its growth in 2013 after seeming to defy the overall downward trend in 2012," Census said. "A larger share of Hispanic college students attend two-year schools than Asians, blacks or non-Hispanic whites, and these schools say a sharper decline than four-year schools."
Census said college enrollment between 2012 and 2013 did not increase for Hispanics, blacks or Asians. In the five years leading up to 2012, Hispanic college enrollment rose by 1 million, black enrollment grew by 500,000, and Asian enrollment increased by 340,000.