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Freshman Enrollment is Falling Among Native Populations: Here’s How Tribal Colleges are Responding

by NSC Blog | Dec 8, 2020 | Research Reports, Research Services

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic is taking its toll among college students around the country. But recent data suggests that students of color, including Native Americans, in particular, may be especially at risk.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Stay Informed report revealed there are 13% fewer new freshmen college students enrolled this fall. This number climbs to 22% for Native American students and even higher — to 30% when looking at community college enrollment figures for Native American students. In addition, The Christian Science Monitor reported that more than 75% of tribal colleges report losing first-time students this fall, with an average reported decrease of nearly 75%.

What’s driving the enrollment downturn, according to The Christian Science Monitor?

  • Students who have lost their jobs feel they can no longer afford the cost
  • Students attending schools remotely may not have access to required technology
  • Students with in-person classes may have personal health concerns making them hesitant to attend; others struggle with transportation and childcare issues

It’s a situation that the tribal colleges are aware of and taking steps to address. Fortunately, the news isn’t entirely dire.

There are some unexpected potential opportunities that online learning represents for both schools and students. Some tribal colleges are finding that virtual classes expand their market when students have access to the technology they need. In one case, a school grew its incoming freshman class by almost 150%. To help students, some tribal colleges are offering deep discounts–as much as 50% in an effort to ease the financial burden.

The pandemic presents challenges, but also offers opportunities, for institutions as they consider creative ways to help students.

Watch for the Research Center’s next enrollment update, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.

Stay Informed report data, as of Oct. 22, 2020.


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