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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Community Colleges, For-Profit and Rural Institutions, Black Undergraduates, and Male Undergraduates Suffered Most from Online-Only 2020 Summer Sessions, According to Latest Enrollment Data

HERNDON, VA — (Sept. 1, 2020) —The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center announced today that with nearly 7 million students enrolled during Summer 2020, community colleges saw enrollment losses of nearly 6% and for-profits’ enrollment declined by 7% over Summer 2019. Meanwhile, public and private nonprofit four-year colleges saw modest enrollment growth of 3% and 4%, respectively.

However, public four-year, rural institutions declined more than 8%, and private nonprofit rural campuses declined by almost 5%. But enrollment at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions in cities increased nearly 6% and those in suburbs grew by 3%.

“These data offer the first opportunity to grasp the full range of effects on students and institutions of the host of disruptions the nation has weathered this summer,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The equity implications for higher education in the fall are becoming more clear: Many of those most affected by the pandemic also appear to be losing access to college classes, even at community colleges and rural institutions that have traditionally served them.”

The new report kicks off a new research series, Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information, that will track the impact of COVID-19 on postsecondary enrollments, using the latest data available. Unlike our normal Current Term Enrollment Estimates report series, Stay Informed highlights year-over-year changes, using 2018 and 2019 historical data as pre-pandemic baselines and creating fixed panels of institutions that have submitted data within each month. This allows us to provide early insights with preliminary data before the full enrollment reporting is completed for the term. The Research Center will update the data monthly, for various subgroups of students, programs, institutions, states, or regions.

Key research findings include:

  • Black students suffered the steepest declines in undergraduate programs with a decline of 8%, particularly at community colleges with a 11% decline. But Black graduate enrollment increased 3%.
  • Hispanic undergraduate enrollment increased at all institutions except for community colleges, and Hispanics graduate students increased nearly 13% from last year, the fastest growth of all racial/ethnic groups.
  • Male undergraduate enrollments dropped overall 5.2% and nearly 14% at community colleges, compared to a decline of less than one percent for women.
  • At primarily online institutions, where more than 90 percent of student enroll exclusively online, graduate enrollment increased almost 6% and undergraduate enrollments decreased almost 4%. A total of 34 institutions are identified as primarily online, as of Spring 2020, and 28 are included in the Summer 2020 analysis. Primarily online institutions are predominantly private for-profit four-year, multi-state, institutions.
  • Undergraduate enrollment growth in public and private nonprofit four-year colleges was driven by students aged 18-20, and by high school dual enrollees, with 8% and 17% growth, respectively.

In a precursor to this new report, the Research Center’s June report, “A COVID-19 Supplement to Spring 2020 Current Term Enrollment Estimates,” showed that the pandemic did not appear to have had any major effect on students’ enrollment status changes during the spring term, regardless of demographic characteristics or institution types. However, there were early signs of broader impacts underway, such as more students taking leaves of absence than in pre-pandemic years, particularly African Americans and Hispanics.

To further quantify the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. higher education institutions, the Research Center, with financial grants from Ascendium Education Group and the ECMC Foundation, will launch in late October a new research report series titled, “COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress,” that addresses student transfer, mobility, and progress in near-real-time.

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 more than 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97 percent 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