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What college was like the year you were born

  • 2011: Obama administration tackles sexual harassment on campus

    - Total enrollment: 18.1 million (43.3% male; 56.7% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.7 million (75.8% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 4.4 million (24.2% of total)

    The Obama administration released new guidance to universities in an effort to end sexual violence and harassment on campuses in 2011. The “Dear Colleague Letter” stated that sexual harassment against students impeded their right to a discrimination-free education. The Trump administration would withdraw the guidance six years later.

  • 2012: College students shoulder $1 trillion in debt

    - Total enrollment: 17.7 million (43.5% male; 56.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.5 million (76.0% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 4.3 million (24.0% of total)

    College students shouldered huge amounts of debt from rising tuition throughout the 2000s. As a result, the total outstanding balance on all student loans in the U.S. climbed to a record $1 trillion in 2012, according to Jillian Berman of MarketWatch.

  • 2013: Student loan interest rates double

    - Total enrollment: 17.5 million (43.8% male; 56.2% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.3 million (76.4% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 4.1 million (23.6% of total)

    Millions of college students saw their student loan interest rates double to 6.8% in June 2013 after Congress failed to pass laws to stop an automatic rate hike, reports Shelby Bremer of Credit.com. The higher rate meant that students could expect to pay “an additional $3,000 on a $23,000 loan paid off over 10 years.”

  • 2014: Columbia student draws nationwide attention to college rape

    - Total enrollment: 17.3 million (43.9% male; 56.1% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.2 million (76.6% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 4.0 million (23.4% of total)

    Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz carried a 50-pound mattress around campus for most of the 2014–15 academic year (including the graduation ceremony) after the institution cleared a student she says raped her in 2012. The performance art drew national attention to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses and the role of universities to address such crimes.

  • 2015: Enrollment plummets at major for-profit college

    - Total enrollment: 17.0 million (44.0% male; 56.0% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.2 million (77.1% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.9 million (22.9% of total)

    The University of Phoenix began preparing for a major downsize in 2015 after a sharp decline in enrollment, per Ronald J. Hansen of The Republic. The for-profit college expected enrollment to decline by 70% in 2016 from a peak of almost 477,000 students in 2010 amid government inquiries into its practices, greater regulations, and the rise of more budget-conscious students.

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  • 2016: Texas allows students to carry handguns to campus

    - Total enrollment: 16.9 million (44.0% male; 56.0% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.1 million (77.9% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.7 million (22.1% of total)

    Texas enacted the “campus carry law” in 2016. The law, which took effect on the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas at Austin shooting that killed 14 people and hurt more than 30 others, permits people age 21 and up with concealed handgun licenses to bring their guns with them to public university campuses, per Karen Yuan and Lucy Price of CNN.

  • 2017: Applying for financial aid gets easier

    - Total enrollment: 16.8 million (43.8% male; 56.2% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.1 million (78.2% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.7 million (21.8% of total)

    New rules for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) introduced in 2017 made it easier for college students to apply for tuition assistance from the government. As a result, 14 million people applied by late June of that year, an increase from 13.2 million in the year before, according to Ann Carrns of The New York Times.

  • 2018: College students embrace elections

    - Total enrollment: 16.6 million (43.5% male; 56.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.0 million (78.6% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.6 million (21.4% of total)

    College students got more politically active in the 2010s. From the midterm elections in 2014 to those of 2018, the voting rate among students more than doubled, according to the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education.

  • 2019: Congress extends funding for colleges serving minority students

    - Total enrollment: 16.7 million (43.5% male; 56.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.1 million (78.6% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.6 million (21.4% of total)

    Congress passed the FUTURE Act in December 2019. The act permanently extends hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for higher education institutions focused on minority students, including historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, Alaska Native-serving institutions, Native American-serving nontribal institutions, and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions.

  • 2020: COVID-19 cancels in-person classes

    - Total enrollment: 16.7 million (43.5% male; 56.5% female)
    --- Total public enrollment: 13.1 million (78.6% of total)
    --- Total private enrollment: 3.6 million (21.4% of total)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many colleges to make major changes to the fall 2020 semester. Some have implemented low-density dorms and delayed the start of the academic year, while others have completely scrapped in-person classes entirely, according to Emma Whitford of Inside Higher Ed.

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