Postsecondary Enrollment Continues to Grow

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Postsecondary Enrollment Continues to Grow

While Not at Pre-Pandemic Levels, Growth Continues in All Institution Sectors, Credential Types and Many Demographic Categories

Note: There may be a delay in responding to media requests from May 23-27 due to a company offsite event and holiday closure until May 28.

HERNDON, VA – (MAY 22, 2024) – Undergraduate enrollment grew 2.5 percent in spring 2024 compared to the previous year (+359,000), according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The Current Term Enrollment Estimates Spring 2024 Report shows that this is the second consecutive semester of year-over-year enrollment growth, continuing the trend from last fall’s 1.2 percent increase, following years of decline during the pandemic. Community colleges, though only accounting for a quarter of all postsecondary enrollment, drove almost half of this spring’s enrollment growth (+200,000, +4.7% over spring 2023).

Enrollment increased across the three largest undergraduate credential types. Associate degree program enrollment growth from last fall strengthened this spring, with 179,000 more students enrolled than at this time last year (+4.4%). Spring enrollment in bachelor’s programs turned a corner this year (+2.3%, +181,000) — rising for the first time after falling for the previous four spring terms, it is now also exceeding the fall 2023 growth rate. Undergraduate certificate programs continued building on years of growth (+3.6%, +35,000).

Graduate enrollment fared even better than undergraduate enrollment this spring (+3.0%, +88,000), reversing last year’s losses.

“Undergraduate enrollments are picking up steam,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “With year-over-year growth this spring at twice the rate of fall 2023, prospects may be looking up for struggling colleges. Growth is particularly promising for new freshmen entering community colleges during spring term.”

While these enrollment gains are optimistic signs for a potential recovery from pandemic losses, they remain well below pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 800,000 fewer students (-4.2%) overall and over 900,000 (-6.0%) fewer undergraduates, compared to spring 2020. Community college enrollment remains 12.4 percent below where it was in spring 2020, whereas public and private nonprofit 4-years have nearly recouped all losses (-0.7% and -1.0%, respectively).

Additional highlights of the report include:

  • Demographics: The number of dual enrolled high school students (17 and younger) grew for the third year in a row (+10.0%, +101,000), accounting for 28.1 percent of undergraduate enrollment increases. Students 21 and older at community colleges and public PABs grew for the first time since 2020 (+3.8% at public 2-years, +4.8% at PABs), while declines among public 4-year undergraduates 21 to 24 years old continued.
  • Freshmen: Spring first-time freshman enrollment increased 3.9 percent in spring 2024 over the previous year. This growth was strongest at community colleges (+6.2%, +14,000) and public PABs (+11.0%, +5,000), where two-thirds of all spring starters enroll.
  • Institutional Characteristics: Community college enrollment continued growing for the second year in a row among urban and suburban locales (+4.7%, +94,000 and +7.4%, +87,000 respectively).
  • States: Forty-four states saw total enrollment growth this spring, ranging from 0.8 percent (Vermont) to 6.1 percent (Georgia).
  • Field of Study: Undergraduate enrollment at four-year institutions increased for 15 of the top 20 major fields.
    • Computer and Information Sciences logged another year of high growth (+9.9%, +57,000 at four-year institutions).
    • Education program enrollment stabilized this year (-0.1%) following two years of steady declines at four-year institutions.
    • Undergraduate enrollment in Health Professions grew across all institution types this spring, marking the first increase for Health Professions enrollments in years.

The Current Term Enrollment Estimates (CTEE) series is published every January and May. It provides national enrollment estimates by credential type, institutional sector, enrollment intensity, age group, gender, major field as well as state-level enrollment estimates. For the complete CTEE Spring 2024 report, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org/current-term-enrollment-estimates/.

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 nscresearchcenter.org.

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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 nscresearchcenter.org/undergraduate-degree-earners.

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 nscresearchcenter.org.

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The National Student Clearinghouse Announces Tony Chiles as Chief Technology and Information Officer

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The National Student Clearinghouse Announces Tony Chiles as Chief Technology and Information Officer

HERNDON, VA (MARCH 21, 2024) – The National Student Clearinghouse announced today that Tony Chiles will serve as Chief Technology and Information Officer (CTIO) to lead the organization’s data and technology teams. In addition, Tony will directly oversee the organization’s digital transformation to become a primary trusted data source for the nation’s education and workforce data ecosystem.

“We are pleased to welcome Tony to the Clearinghouse leadership team,” said Rick Torres, president and CEO of the National Student Clearinghouse. “Tony’s career has spanned decades working in data-intensive environments at some of the most well-known corporations and technology brands. He has deep experience in technology and operations, specifically within cloud transformation, digital transformation, data, and application development. His leadership and experience will be a tremendous asset as we bring the data ecosystem into the future to support our stakeholders. He has joined a team of dedicated, mission-driven professionals.”

“I am honored to join such a great organization as the Clearinghouse, whose education and workforce data services are second to none, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to drive disruptive innovation that will accelerate the Clearinghouse’s mission to democratize data,” Tony Chiles, the National Student Clearinghouse Chief Technology and Information Officer said. “There is potential to have an even greater, exponential impact on communities nationwide, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team who brings the vision to fruition.”

As CTIO, Tony will play a significant role in defining and implementing a technology strategic vision aligned with the organization’s growth, performance goals and five-year strategic vision. He will help define and execute the company’s technology strategy, including adopting microservices, incorporating traditional and generative AI and other modern architectural paradigms, and managing the journey to the Cloud.

Before joining the National Student Clearinghouse, Chiles served as Chief Information Officer at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. Prior to that, he held the role of Vice President of Cloud, Cybersecurity and DevSecOps at CGI Federal Inc. Before CGI, he was Chief Information Officer at the American Diabetes Association, and Deputy Chief Information Officer at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Chiles also spent 14 years at Aol serving in a variety of executive leadership roles, building and leading both domestic and international teams, and driving enterprise-wide digital transformation and data strategy.

Chiles earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Maryland and holds a patent award as lead inventor on “a technique for automatically updating software stored on a client computer in a networked client-server environment.”

About the National Student Clearinghouse®

The National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit formed in 1993, is the trusted source for and leading provider of higher education verifications and electronic education record exchanges. Besides working with nearly 3,600 postsecondary institutions, the Clearinghouse also provides thousands of high schools and districts with continuing collegiate enrollment, progression, and completion statistics on their alumni. For more details, visit studentclearinghouse.org.

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College Transfer Enrollment Grew by 5.3% in the Fall of 2023

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College Transfer Enrollment Grew by 5.3% in the Fall of 2023

Report Shows Community College Students Transferring to Four-Year Colleges Increased Nearly 8%

HERNDON, VA – (FEBRUARY 28, 2024) – College transfer enrollment grew in the fall of 2023 by 5.3 percent compared to fall 2022 (+62,600), according to the latest report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Transfer enrollment represents 13.2 percent of all continuing and returning undergraduates, up from 12.5 percent last year and 12.3 percent in fall 2021. Upward transfers from two-year to four-year institutions drove the growth, increasing by 7.7 percent, while lateral transfers grew 4.3 percent.

“Students are on the move again, and this is good news,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “More community college students entering bachelor’s programs this fall means greater access to four-year degrees, especially for those from lower-income backgrounds.”

The Research Center’s Transfer and Progress report provides data on undergraduate transfer enrollment and pathways and the mobility and progress of pandemic-impacted community college starters. The first portion of the report describes the enrollment, demographic characteristics, and transfer behaviors of 11.7 million undergraduate students in fall 2023, from a three-year fixed panel of institutions that consistently reported data in fall 2021 to 2023. Highlights of this section of the report include:

  • Disadvantaged students, including those from lower income backgrounds, Black and Hispanic groups, and from rural community colleges saw larger increases in transfer enrollment.
  • Returning students are increasingly attending a different institution from where they last enrolled (51.2% of returning students are transfers this year, up from 44.4% in 2021). The most frequent destination for these students were community colleges (+6.0%), primarily online institutions (+12.6%), and private for-profit four-year institutions (+20.7%).
  • Upward transfers increased the most at very competitive and at highly selective institutions (+13.1% and +7.8%, respectively). Lateral four-year transfers made the largest gains among less selective institutions (+10.8%).
  • Two-year college students from middle and low neighborhood income backgrounds made large gains in transfer enrollment to more selective four-year colleges.

The second section provides transfer-out rates, annual progress and six-year outcomes for cohorts of first-time community college students (6.4 million students across seven cohorts). Highlights of this section of the report include:

  • The fall 2022 cohort was 6.5 percent larger than the 2021 cohort. However, there were still over 100,000 fewer students entering community college in 2022 than in 2019, before the pandemic.
  • Despite large enrollment declines, upward transfer rates for 2020 starters rose above pre-pandemic levels in their second and third years of enrollment (+1.4 pp and +1.3 pp compared to 2019 cohort, respectively). For 2021 starters, second year upward transfer rates declined compared to the 2020 cohort (-0.4 pp to 5.7%) but still remained above pre-pandemic levels (+1.1 pp).

For the complete Transfer and Progress report, including change of majors and breakdown by state, as well as a deeper dive into annual transfer-out rates and six-year outcomes for community college entering cohorts over time visit nscresearchcenter.org/transfer-and-progress.

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 nscresearchcenter.org.

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Undergraduate Enrollment Grew in the Fall of 2023

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Undergraduate Enrollment Grew in the Fall of 2023

Report Shows Community College Enrollment Increased 2.6%

HERNDON, VA – (JANUARY 24, 2024) – Undergraduate enrollment grew 1.2 percent (+176,000) in the fall of 2023, the first increase since the pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse’s latest research. Among the three largest sectors, growth was highest at community colleges, which gained 118,000 students (+2.6%) after steep declines during the pandemic. Public and private nonprofit 4-year institutions both saw smaller increases of 0.6 percent (+38,000 and +16,000, respectively). Over two-thirds of states saw undergraduate enrollment growth this fall.

“The number of students in college has finally turned the corner after years of decline,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The small uptick this fall is a welcome change for higher education, but there are still over a million empty seats on campuses today that were filled five years ago.”

The Current Term Enrollment Estimates (CTEE) report showed that freshman enrollment also grew this fall, but at a slower rate (+0.8%, +18,000) than undergraduate enrollment overall. This growth was driven by community colleges, which added 17,000 freshmen (+2.3%), and by older freshmen (age 21 and above, +6.3%, +18,000). There was no growth in freshmen 20 years old and younger. Their enrollment remains 5.3 percent below 2019 levels. Freshman enrollment growth at public 4-year institutions was strongest at the lower end of the admissions selectivity range (“competitive” and “less selective” schools, +1.7%, +7,000, and +3.0%, +4,000 respectively). Conversely, freshman enrollment at private nonprofit 4-year institutions was strongest at highly selective institutions (+1.8%, +2,000).

Additional highlights of the report include:

  • Overall graduate enrollment growth this fall (+0.6%, +17,000) was not strong enough to offset last year’s graduate enrollment declines. As a result, total postsecondary enrollment—undergraduate and graduate combined—increased 1.1 percent (+193,000).
  • Enrollment in associate programs saw the highest growth (+2.2%, +96,000) among undergraduates. This is the first time since the Research Center began tracking enrollment by credential level in 2015 that enrollment in associate programs increased. Bachelor’s programs grew at a lower rate (+0.7%, +63,000). Despite these gains, associate enrollment remains 14.2 percent below fall 2019 levels, and bachelor’s enrollment remains 3.3 percent below 2019.
  • Undergraduate certificate programs notched a third consecutive year of fall term growth gaining 18,000 students, although the growth rate (+1.8%) has slowed considerably from its high in fall 2021 (+9.8%). Certificate enrollment is 15.6 percent above 2019 levels.
  • Dual enrollment (students 17 and younger) continued to increase at both community colleges (+5.2%, +44,000) and public PABs (+7.4%, +10,000). At the other end of the age spectrum, there was rare growth in enrollment of the oldest students (age 30+) at community colleges (+2.2%, +20,000).
  • At community colleges with a high vocational program focus, enrollment grew 16.0 percent (+112,000), bringing them above fall 2019 levels (+3.7%). Community college enrollment at transfer-focused institutions stabilized (+0.2%), remaining well below fall 2019 levels (-19.6%).
  • Undergraduate enrollment of traditional-age students from lower income neighborhoods grew slightly more than for students from higher income neighborhoods. Students from areas in the bottom two quintiles of neighborhood income gained 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent compared to 1.1 percent for the two highest quintiles. Still, enrollment from the poorest neighborhoods remains down 2.9 percent (-33,000) compared to fall 2019. In contrast, enrollment of those from the highest-income neighborhoods is down only 0.8 percent (-25,000) compared to 2019.
  • At two-year institutions, Health majors saw growth after over four years of decline (+2.4%, +16,000). At four-year institutions, Health majors, particularly Registered Nursing programs, declined this fall (-1.1%, -5,000).

For more on enrollment by ethnoracial groups, undergraduate majors, graduate programs, as well as regional and state enrollment trends that make up the complete report, visit nscresearchcenter.org/current-term-enrollment-estimates.

Note that this fall 2023 expanded edition of the CTEE report features new analyses of:

  • student’s neighborhood income background
  • enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • community college enrollment by institutions’ program focus (transfer or vocational)
  • enrollment trends by institution locale
  • enrollment in major field subgroups (4-digit CIP)
  • more detailed breakouts of enrollment by credential level and by age

The CTEE Expanded Edition report is supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through grant R305X220022 to Teachers College, Columbia University. This project is part of the Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges (ARCC) Network. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

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 nscresearchcenter.org.

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Progress in National College Completion Rates Continue to Stall, with Declines at Four-Year Institutions

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Progress in National College Completion Rates Continue to Stall, with Declines at Four-Year Institutions

HERNDON, VA – (NOVEMBER 30, 2023) – Progress in the national college completion rate remains stalled, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest report. The six-year completion rate for the fall 2017 cohort was 62.2 percent, essentially unchanged since 2015.

The Completing College 2023 report found that six-year completion rates increased in over half of states, with nine states increasing 1 percentage point (pp) or more. This is up from the previous year where only five states had gains of at least 1 pp. Trends differed at the sector level, however, with improvements nationally in community college completion rates (+0.4 pp) building on their previous year’s growth, while all four-year sectors experienced completion rate declines.

“The rising risk of leaving college short of a diploma could be troubling news for students contemplating bachelor’s degree programs today,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Not only have fewer of the 2017 starters completed as of 2023, but the data also show fewer still enrolled, suggesting that this is more than just a matter of slower progress during the pandemic years.”

This is the twelfth report in the Completing College series. This report updates the six-year college completion rates nationally and by state, by tracking the enrollment and completion outcomes for the fall 2017 cohort of beginning college students through June 2023. The report also features national eight-year completion outcomes for fall 2015 through June 2023.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Completions rates stalled or declined across all ethnicities, with Native American (-2.0 pp) and Black students (-0.4 pp) posting the largest decreases.
  • The gender gap in completion rates continues to grow and is the widest seen since 2008 (7.2pp in favor of women).
  • Traditional-aged students entering college in fall 2017 saw declines in their overall six-year completion rate. Adult learners continue to make gains, but still lag behind traditional-aged students.
  • The national eight-year completion rate for the fall 2015 cohort declined 0.5pp from 2014. Only 2.4 percent of the cohort completed in the seventh and eighth years, the lowest rate in the past five cohorts.

For the comprehensive Completing College 2023 report, you can visit: https://nscresearchcenter.org/completing-college/

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 nscresearchcenter.org.

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