Percentage of Students Taking Distance Courses - 2012-2015

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This report uses data collected under the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall Enrollment survey. Beginning with Fall 2012, the data includes distance education enrollments.



Students who are taking at least one distance education course comprise 29.7% of all higher education enrollments as of fall 2015. This share represents the total of those who are taking all of their courses at a distance, and those who are taking a combination of distance and non-distance courses. The proportion of the higher education student body taking advantage of distance education courses has increased each of the last three years. It stood at 25.9% in 2012, at 27.1% in 2013, and at 28.3% in 2014.

To put these figures in context, the proportion of students taking at least one online course for fall 2002 was under ten percent, at 9.6%1. This fraction has grown as institutions introduced online programs and existing distance programs grew their enrollments.

The number of students taking at least one distance education course increased 3.9% over the previous year, and grew by 11.0% in the three years since 2012. The 3.9% growth rate exceeds that observed between 2012 and 2013 (3.4%) and between 2013 and 2014 (3.3%). The 6,022,105 total of distance education students for 2015 includes 4,999,112 who are studying at the undergraduate level, and 1,022,993 who are studying at the graduate level.