Freshman Enrollment Continues to Show Steep Declines Across All Sectors, Races, Ages and Gender
Herndon, Va. (Nov. 12, 2020) – Undergraduate enrollment is down 4.4% while graduate enrollment is up 2.9% compared to the same time last year, according to the latest data by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Overall, postsecondary enrollment this fall is 3.3% lower.
The previous report released on Oct. 15 showed a 4% decrease in undergraduate enrollment and a 2.7% growth in graduate enrollment, with an overall 3% decline in postsecondary enrollment.
“The big picture remains the same after the inclusion of data for an additional 4.4 million students,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The latest data update shows community colleges and freshmen continuing to show the steepest drops in enrollment, while the declines among undergraduates generally have deepened.”
The decline in freshman enrollment this fall has been revised from last month’s report of a 16% decline, to a still substantial decline of 13%. Community colleges are showing the sharpest drop (-18.9%), almost 19 times the pre-pandemic loss rate (-1% between fall 2018 and 2019; see Figure 6). Public four-year institutions declined -10.5% and private nonprofit four-year institutions dropped -8.5%.
The impact of COVID-19 on undergraduate enrollment is felt most in the Midwest where numbers are down by 5.7%, followed by the West (-4.7%), Northeast (-4.4%) and South (-3.8%). Out of all 50 states, only five states (Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Utah, and West Virginia) have seen more undergraduate students this fall than last fall. The steepest decline was seen in South Dakota (-12.4%), followed by New Mexico (-9.7%) and Alaska and Indiana (-9.2% each).
Graduate enrollment is up in 38 states, with Mississippi (+17.9%), Virginia (+10.6), and New Hampshire (+10.1%) experiencing double-digit increases this fall. In contrast, 11 states face declines ranging from 0.2% to 4.7%. Both undergraduate and graduate enrollment increased in Idaho, New Hampshire, Utah, and West Virginia.
This third update to the fall 2020 series, Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information, is based on 13.6 million enrolled students from 76% of postsecondary institutions reporting to the Clearinghouse, as of Oct. 22. For comparisons, see our previous press release. The Research Center will provide the final fall enrollment data on Dec. 17.
Additional results include:
Among undergraduate students, Native American students continue to see the steepest decline overall (-9.6%), followed by Black students (-7.5%), White students (-6.6%), Hispanic students (-5.4%), and Asian students (-3.1%). Fall 2019’s upward trend among Hispanic students is now reversed, largely due to the drop in their community college enrollment this fall.
International student enrollments have dropped severely (-14.9%) at the undergraduate level and were still the only student group that experienced declines in graduate enrollment (-7.8%).
With increased institutional coverage, as well as data updates from existing schools, the four-year for-profit sector is now showing a slight drop of 0.1% in undergraduate enrollment compared to last year at this time.
Undergraduate enrollment at primarily online institutions, where more than 90% of students enrolled exclusively online before the pandemic, increased by 4.9%, primarily due to growth in the number of part-time students.
About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes.
The Research Center currently collects data from nearly 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in degree-granting institutions, as of 2018. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org.