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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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