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Undergraduate Enrollment Drops Nearly 8% and Community Colleges Decline 15% Since Fall 2019

by NSC Blog | Nov 18, 2021 | Research Reports, Research Services |

California, Indiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico Feature the Largest Enrollment Declines

​Roughly two months into the second fall semester of the pandemic, postsecondary enrollment is now running 2.6% below last year’s level, according to the latest research by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Undergraduate enrollment has declined 3.5% so far this fall, with a total two-year decline of 7.8% since 2019. However, graduate enrollment has grown 2.1%, which maintains the 2.7% upward trend from last fall.

The updated figures released today reflect 13.7 million undergraduate and graduate students combined, as reported by 74% of more than 3,600 Title IV degree-granting institutions that participate in the Clearinghouse as of October 21, 2021.

Undergraduate enrollment has declined across all institution sectors. Enrollment decreases in public four-year and private for-profit four-year institutions were steeper than last fall. This fall, public four-year institutions declined 2.5% vs a 1.6% loss last fall. Private for-profit four-year institutions this fall dropped 8.5% vs a 2.6% drop last fall. Enrollment at private nonprofit four-year institutions remained largely stable (-0.6%) while community college enrollment continued to fall, but at a slower rate than last fall (-6.0% vs. -9.4% last fall). Community college enrollment is now down a total of 14.8% since 2019.

Meanwhile, primarily online institutions, where more than 90% of students enrolled exclusively online prior to the pandemic, saw both undergraduate and graduate enrollments decline steeply (-8.9% and -8.2%, respectively) across gender and age groups, reversing growth experienced previous fall.

“Today’s data are largely consistent with last month’s report,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “And with more schools counted, the continued downward trends raise even more troubling concerns for students and institutions struggling to recover from the first pandemic year.”

Next month, the fall 2021 Current Term Enrollment Estimates is scheduled to come out on or around Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Enrollment Changes by Sector by Award Level, Sector, and Gender

“With more schools counted, the continued downward trends raise even more troubling concerns for students and institutions struggling to recover from the first pandemic year.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

 

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