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Overall Spring College Enrollments Down Nearly 3% Nationwide, According to Early Data

by NSC Blog | Mar 11, 2021 | Research Reports, Research Services, Signature Reports |

Spring enrollment appears to be showing the same level of enrollment losses overall as the fall 2020 trend, according to the latest data by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Undergraduate enrollment is down 4.5% while graduate enrollment is up 4.3%. Overall, college enrollment is running 2.9% below last spring’s level.

Community colleges remain the most affected sector of higher education by COVID-19, down 9.5% from a year ago, the same rate of decline as the fall. Community colleges had decreased 1.3% from this time in spring 2020. Results released today are preliminary, based on data as of February 11, 2021, and reflecting 6.7 million students, as reported by 43% of the colleges participating in the Clearinghouse.

“There’s no quick turnaround in sight for undergraduate enrollment declines driven by the pandemic,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Education institutions, high schools, and policymakers will need to work together to help bring back the learners who are struggling during the pandemic and recession.”

Public four-year undergraduate enrollment is currently falling more precipitously (-3.3% this spring compared to -1.1% last spring and -1.9% in fall 2020). Graduate enrollment, on the other hand, is growing at a higher rate than in the fall (+4.3% this spring compared to +1.5% last spring and +2.9% fall 2020). Most of the increase in graduate student numbers occurred at public four-year institutions.

Total bachelor’s degree enrollment has slipped -2.1% this spring compared to -0.6% last spring and -1.1% in fall 2020. There are much larger drops in associate degree enrollment: -10.5% this spring compared to -2.9% last spring and -9% fall 2020. See tab 2; figure 3 for details.

Read the press release about this research. These results will be updated throughout the spring as more data are received. The next update is scheduled for Thursday, April 29.

Undergraduate Enrollment Changes by Sector, Spring 2020 to Spring 2021

“There’s no quick turnaround in sight for undergraduate enrollment declines driven by the pandemic.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

 

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