Dual Enrollee and Freshman Growth Drive Community College Uptick
HERNDON, VA (March 29, 2023) – Enrollment at community colleges is beginning to grow this spring (+2.1% over last spring), according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information, the first-look spring 2023 enrollment report found that the trend is due to an accelerated increase in dual enrollees and spring freshmen. Freshmen increased across all institution types, with most attending a community college (58.8%).
“It’s encouraging to see this second straight year of growth in spring freshmen and dual-enrolled high school students,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “However, community colleges still face significant declines in adult learners, who have been opting out of college in larger numbers since the start of the pandemic.”
Undergraduate enrollment remained steady this spring (+0.2%) following two straight years of steep pandemic-related losses. Only the public four-year sector continued to experience undergraduate enrollment declines (-0.9%). Total enrollment, including undergraduates and graduates, has remained unchanged since last spring (+0.0%).
Additional research highlights include:
- Certificate program enrollment increased at both the undergraduate (+5.5%) and graduate (+4.6%) levels, continuing pre-pandemic trends. Associate degree-seeking students increased slightly (+0.3%) while bachelor’s seeking students continued to slide (-0.6%).
- Undergraduate enrollment at rural and town campuses declined by nearly seven times the rate of urban settings for all four-year institutions (-2.7% for town/rural; -0.4% for urban). Conversely, community college enrollment grew across all campus settings.
- Enrollment grew only among younger undergraduate students, while older age groups (21 or above) continued a downward trend, extending multi-year losses in adult enrollment.
- Undergraduate men, who were hit harder at the beginning of the pandemic, saw slight growth in their enrollment (0.7%), whereas enrollment among women continued to decline (-0.9%).
- Among undergraduate students, only Latinx students had enrollment gains this spring (+0.9%), while all other major race and ethnicity groups showed slowing declines or stabilization.
- Undergraduate enrollment in the health field continues to decline across all credential levels. Among graduate students, health field enrollment grew only at the certificate and doctoral levels.
Results are preliminary as of February 23, 2023, capturing 8.5 million spring enrollments in a panel representing 54% of the Clearinghouse universe of institutions. Results are subject to change as more data are reported for the spring of 2023.
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 analyzes the data from more than 3,600 Title IV eligible degree-granting postsecondary institutions, which represent 97% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollment as of fall 2021. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit nscresearchcenter.org.