Stay Informed Report: Community College Enrollment Beginning to Grow This Spring
Dual Enrollee and Freshman Growth Drive Community College Uptick
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its spring 2023 Stay Informed Report finding that enrollment in community colleges grew 2.1% since last spring. This uptick is promising news as community colleges experienced sharp declines in enrollment during the pandemic.
From spring 2020 through spring 2022, community college enrollment fell by 16.6%, according to the Research Center’s Spring 2022 Current Term Enrollment Estimates Report. The latest Stay Informed Report, which provides a first look at spring 2023 enrollment, shows that community college growth this term was fueled by freshman enrollment (+13.5% from spring 2022). While freshmen also grew in other sectors, most freshmen (58.8%) attended a community college. Strong growth in dual enrollment (up 12.8% from spring 2022) also bolstered community colleges.
“It’s encouraging to see this second straight year of growth in spring freshmen and dual-enrolled high school students,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “However, community colleges still face significant declines in adult learners, who have been opting out of college in larger numbers since the start of the pandemic.”
Overall, undergraduate enrollment remained steady this spring (+0.2%) following two straight years of steep pandemic-related losses. Only the public four-year sector continued to experience undergraduate enrollment declines (-0.9%). Total enrollment, including undergraduates and graduates, has remained unchanged since last spring (+0.0%).
Other Key Findings:
- Enrollment growth continues to be the strongest in certificate programs at both the undergraduate (+5.5%) and graduate (+4.6%) levels. Associate and bachelor’s degree-seeking students had more muted enrollment changes (+0.3% and -0.6%, respectively).
- Undergraduate men, hit particularly hard at the beginning of the pandemic, are now seeing enrollment growth (+0.7%), while enrollment continues to decline for women (-0.9%).
- Latinx students were the only major racial and ethnic group to show enrollment increases (+0.9%).
- Undergraduate enrollment in the health field continues to decline across all credential levels. Among graduate students, health field enrollment grew only at the certificate and doctoral levels.
Results are preliminary as of February 23, 2023, capturing 8.5 million spring enrollments in a panel of institutions that represent 54 percent of the Clearinghouse universe of institutions. Results are subject to change as more data is reported for the spring of 2023.
View the Stay Informed Report to learn more.
Enrollment Changes by Award Level and Sector
Note: PABs are primarily associate degree-granting baccalaureate institutions. These institutions are four-year schools that primarily educate and award degrees at the sub-baccalaureate credential level.
“It’s encouraging to see this second straight year of growth in spring freshmen and dual-enrolled high school students.”
Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center