More Than 100,000 Students Experienced An Abrupt Campus Closure Between July 2004 and June 2020

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More Than 100,000 Students Experienced An Abrupt Campus Closure Between July 2004 and June 2020

SHEEO and National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Investigated the Impacts of 467 College Closures on Student Outcomes

BOULDER, CO and HERNDON, VA(NOVEMBER 15, 2022) – More than 100,000 students out of more than 143,000 or 70% experienced their institution closing without adequate notice or a teach-out plan, known as abrupt closure, from July 2004 to June 2020. Poor outcomes in subsequent enrollment and completion were associated with abrupt closures, according to a new report released today by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Most higher education institutions that closed were for-profit colleges. Out of the 467 closed institutions investigated:

  • 9% or 233 were from the private for-profit two-year sector;
  • 1% or 131 occurred from private for-profit four-year institutions;
  • 8% or 83 came from the private nonprofit four-year sector; and
  • 3% or 16 were private nonprofit two-year and four were public four-year institutions.

Almost 12,000 campuses closed over the period analyzed, according to the Postsecondary Education Participants System.

The report, A Dream Derailed? Investigating the Impacts of College Closure on Student Outcomes, is the first of a series of a joint research endeavor between the two organizations to quantify the impacts of college closure on students’ subsequent postsecondary enrollment and completion.

“This study shows that any college closure is damaging to student success, leaving too many learners – more than half – without a viable path to fulfilling their educational dreams,“ said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “But the extremely poor outcomes for students who experienced abrupt closures are particularly worrisome.”

“This research confirms that college closures have a detrimental impact on the enrollment and completion outcomes of all students and are most pronounced when colleges close abruptly without forewarning or student protections,” said SHEEO President Rob Anderson. “The particularly poor outcomes are especially harmful for minoritized students of color enrolled in the for-profit sector. These results reinforce calls for improving state authorization processes and strengthening the financial monitoring of institutions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to college closures.”

Abrupt closure in the private, for-profit four-year sector had the most adverse impact on reenrollment rates: 42.4% vs. 70.1% for orderly closures. When closure was orderly, reenrollment rates were nearly identical across the private four-year sector. Completion gaps by race/ethnicity were exacerbated among abrupt closures, with larger gaps in attainment than among orderly closures, especially for Hispanic and Black students.

Overall, less than half (47.1%) of students who experienced a closure subsequently reenrolled at a postsecondary institution. Of those who reenrolled, 36.8% earned a postsecondary credential, likely their first-ever undergraduate credential, and an additional 10.4% remained enrolled as of February 2022. The remaining 52.9% left without earning a credential after reenrollment. As a result, students who experienced a closure likely add to the population of students that have some college, but no credential.

Other report specifics include:

  • Students who reenrolled within one to four months were the most likely to earn a credential (47.6%). The odds of earning a credential doubled if students reenrolled within one year of closure, while those who stopped out for more than one year were the least likely (18.7%).
  • Hispanic and Black students with abrupt closure experiences were far less likely to earn a credential post-closure compared to their counterparts with orderly closure experiences (26.4% vs. 43.0% for Hispanic; 25.3% vs. 39.4% for Black).
  • Students who experienced closure were more likely to be women (54.6%), white (25.0%), and 30 years or older at the time of closure (39.0%).
  • Reenrollment rates were highest among women (49.0%), white students (62.5%), and traditional college age students (54.0% for 18-20; 46.6% for 21-24).
  • Students who experienced closure at private nonprofit and for-profit four-year institutions were most likely to reenroll in the same sector. Alternatively, students who experienced closure at a private for-profit two-year institution likely reenrolled at a community college.

This series of three publications examining the impacts of college closure on student outcomes is supported by Arnold Ventures.


The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) serves the executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership. For more information, visit

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 2020. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit


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