The Number of Students Earning Undergraduate Degrees Fell for the Second Year in a Row

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The Number of Students Earning Undergraduate Degrees Fell for the Second Year in a Row

HERNDON, VA – (APRIL 11, 2024) – The number of students earning college degrees fell for the second year in a row, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

According to the report, Undergraduate Degree Earners, released Thursday, the total number of people earning any undergraduate credential (bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, and certificates) fell by 2.8 percent, or almost 100,000. This is the second consecutive year of declines after many years of gradual increases.

Despite the overall decrease in students completing degrees, more students earned a certificate this year than in any of the last 10 years. However, fewer students earned an associate degree this year than in any of the last 10 years, and bachelor’s earners declined to their lowest level since 2015-16.

“As expected, the enrollment declines of the pandemic years are now showing up in falling numbers of degree earners as well,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Although shorter term certificates have picked up some of the slack, accelerating declines in associate and bachelor’s degree earners mean fewer new college graduates this year.”

The report also presents data on students who had previously earned a degree or certificate, and this year saw notable declines in the number of students with a prior credential earning a new one. This includes declines in the number of students with a certificate earning an associate degree (-2.5%), those with an associate degree earning a bachelor’s (-3.3%), and students with a prior bachelor’s or master’s degree earning an additional certificate (-3.7%).

There were increases in the number of students who had previously earned a certificate who went on to earn another certificate (1.7%) and who earned a subsequent bachelor’s degree (4.4%).

Additional highlights of the report include:

  • Race/Ethnicity: The number of total credential earners and first-time earners decreased across all race and ethnicity groups. First-time Hispanic and Multiracial completers declined for the first time after years of growth (Hispanic completers: -1.9%, -7,800; Multiracial completers: -1.9%, -1,900).
  • Gender: Women earning their first-ever certificate grew more than men this year (women: +6.2%, +14,000; men: +5.3%, +10,100); this is in contrast to last year when men’s growth outpaced women’s 4 to 1.
  • Age: The number of completers declined for all age groups except those age 20 and younger. Half of this year’s growth in first-time certificate earners is attributable to 18-20-year-olds (+11.3%, +13,900).
  • States and Regions: Declines in completers were widespread across regions, with limited pockets of growth.
  • Major Fields: First-time certificate earner growth built on last year’s gains in trade fields such as Mechanic and Repair Technologies (+7.6%), Precision Production (+11.3%), and Construction Trades (6.1%).

The Undergraduate Degree Earners Report provides a demographic and education credential profile for all students who graduate with an undergraduate-level credential, encompassing undergraduate certificates and associate and bachelor’s degrees. This report includes information about students who earned undergraduate credentials during the most recent academic year (2022-23), focusing on first-time completers versus those with a prior award. It also provides details about change over time in student demographics (gender, age, race/ethnicity), major field, and credentials attained (certificates, and associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees) since the 2013-14 academic year. The report presents trend data nationally, as well as by state and region. New this year, the report is presented as an interactive data dashboard. New variables for analysis include race/ethnicity and major field of students’ credentials. For the complete report, visit

This report was created with the support of Lumina Foundation.

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. To learn more, visit


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