happy african american college students walking together on campus

Black enrollment in higher education institutions across the United States continues to fall, according to statistics in a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.

The report focused on enrollments at Title IV institutions—those allowed to participate in federal student financial assistance programs—in fall 2014.

According to the report, Black students comprised 13.2 percent (a little over 2.7 million) of the 20,663,464 undergraduate and graduate students who enrolled in Title IV tertiary education institutions in 2014. Comparatively, Hispanic students accounted for 15.2 percent enrollment and Whites comprised 52.3 percent.

A majority of the African Americans enrolled in 2014 were undergraduates (2,396,564), and 55 percent of those were enrolled at four-year universities. Blacks also accounted for more than 25 percent of enrollments in for-profit institutions.

However, fewer African-American students enrolled in 2014 than they did in 2013. The same report from last year showed that 2,790,255 African Americans enrolled at Title IV institutions in the U.S. in the fall of 2013, comprising 13.4 percent of total admissions. And, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2,966,463 African Americans enrolled in these institutions two years before.

While the report did not offer reasons for the declining enrollment numbers, comparatively higher secondary school dropout rates among Blacks may account for the disparity in college enrollment.

Additionally, changes in federal student financial aid programs in recent years could be having a significant impact on the ability of African Americans to afford—and thus their willingness to enroll in—college.

In 2011, for example, the Education Department imposed new stringent credit eligibility requirements for the Parent PLUS Loan program, which allow parents to borrow money to finance their children’s college educations; and Congress lowered the lifetime eligibility for Pell Grants to six years in addition to other changes. More recently, the U.S. House and Senate proposed budgets that cut millions from the Pell Grant program.

The changes has and will have a disproportionate effect on African Americans. More than 60 percent of African-American undergraduates rely on Pell Grants to attend school, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.

“With millions of Americans struggling to pay for college and repay student loans, Congress should be helping make college more affordable and strengthening protections for students and taxpayers, not cutting aid and blocking protections,” Institute President Lauren Asher said in a statement concerning the U.S. House’s and Senate’s fiscal year 2016 appropriations bills.