Community Colleges Gain Freshmen but All Other Higher Ed Sectors Lose Ground
HERNDON, VA – (Oct. 20, 2022) – Undergraduate enrollment continued to decline by 1.1% in fall 2022 compared to 2021, but the decline has slowed to pre-pandemic rates, according to the latest research by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment combined declined 1.1% over last fall, leading to a total two-year decline of 3.2% since 2020. The total rate of decline has slowed by almost half since last year when it dropped 2.1% and a third since fall 2020’s 3.4% loss.
This preliminary fall data is based on 10.3 million undergraduate and graduate students, as reported by 63% of Title IV degree-granting institutions that are participating in the Clearinghouse as of September 29, 2022.
Undergraduate enrollment declines this fall are evident across all sectors especially among four-year institutions, with a drop of 1.6% at public four-years; 0.9% at private nonprofits; and 2.5% at private for-profits. Declines at community colleges have slowed, with only a 0.4% enrollment loss compared to fall 2021, driven by an 11.5% jump in dual-enrolled high school students.
“After two straight years of historically large losses, it is particularly troubling that numbers are still falling, especially among freshmen,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Although the decline has slowed and there are some bright spots, a path back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels is growing further out of reach.”
Also, the 18- to 20-year-old age group grew at community colleges by 1.4%, with an increase in traditional-age freshmen making up about one-third of the climb. Total freshman enrollment at community colleges appears to have stabilized for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
However, freshmen enrollment declined by 1.5% overall. Freshmen numbers declined in all four-year sectors, led by private nonprofits dropping 3.1%, publics declining 2.4%, and private for-profits losing 0.9%. Highly selective institutions saw the largest freshmen declines this fall of 5.6% compared to a 10.7% gain in fall 2021. Meanwhile, community colleges saw a 0.9% increase this fall, driving an upward trend of 1% freshmen growth at community colleges since fall 2020.
Furthermore, graduate enrollment declined 1%, which reverses last year’s 2.7% gain. This may signal the end of the pandemic-related influxes of post-baccalaureate students. However, graduate enrollment is still above pre-pandemic levels, with a total two-year change of 1.6% from fall 2020.
Among the 42 states for which sufficient data are available, undergraduate enrollment declined at 27 states compared to last fall. The steepest declines (-4.3% to -5.2%) were in Alaska, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada, while New Hampshire, New Mexico, and South Carolina gained (+3.7% to +6.8%).
Graduate enrollment is down in 26 states, with Alaska, Maine, Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, California, Louisiana, Maryland, and Arkansas all experiencing declines of more than 4% this fall compared to the previous year.
Although the data reported are small, Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ undergraduate enrollment grew 2.5% this fall, which reversed declines of 1.7% in fall 2021. This growth was driven by a 6.6% increase in freshmen enrolling at HBCUs. In contrast, downward trend continued but at a smaller rate at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, -1.2% this fall versus -4.8% last fall, for total two-year losses of 6%.
At primarily online institutions, where more than 90% of students enrolled exclusively online prior to the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment has grown by 3.2% from last fall. This was largely driven by younger students aged 18-20, for whom enrollment growth totaled 23.4% over two years since fall 2020. The numbers are small and may change as more institutions provide their data.
For other details, review the report at Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information.
In addition, examine previous Current Term Enrollment Estimates. The complete Fall 2022 Current Term Estimates are scheduled to be released later this year.
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% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in degree-granting institutions, as of fall 2019. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org.