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  5. Undergraduate Enrollment Falls 662,000 Students in Spring 2022 and 1.4 Million During the Pandemic

Undergraduate Enrollment Falls 662,000 Students in Spring 2022 and 1.4 Million During the Pandemic

by NSC Blog | May 26, 2022 | Clearinghouse News, Current Term Enrollment, Research Reports, Research Services

Rate of Decline Accelerates Compared to Fall 2021

Undergraduate enrollment declined by more than 662,000 students or 4.7% from spring 2021, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. To date, the undergraduate student body has dropped by nearly 1.4 million students, or 9.4% during the pandemic. The annual rate of decline this spring is steeper than fall 2021’s drop of 3.1%, and just slightly below the 4.9% drop in spring 2021.

Meanwhile, total postsecondary enrollment of approximately 16 million students, which includes graduate students, has fallen a total of 4.1% from last spring, or 685,000 students, per the Spring 2022 Current Term Enrollment Estimates report. This follows a 3.5% drop last spring. All institutional sectors experienced varying degrees of enrollment declines this spring. Overall, postsecondary enrollment declined a total of nearly 7.4% or 1.3 million students since this time two years ago.

“College enrollment declines appear to be worsening,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Although there may be some signs of a nascent recovery, particularly in a slight increase of first-year students, the numbers are small, and it remains to be seen whether they will translate into a larger freshman recovery in the coming fall.”

Top Spring 2022 Current Term Enrollment Estimates Findings Include:

  • The public sector, community colleges, and four-year institutions combined, experienced the steepest drop, of more than 604,000 students, or a 5% decline (see Table 1).
  • Community colleges continued to suffer the most, with 351,000 fewer students or a drop of 7.8%. This decline represents more than half of the total postsecondary enrollment losses this term and amounts to a total loss of more than 827,000 community college students since spring 2020 (see Table 2).
  • First-time, first-year enrollment increased this spring by 4.2% or 13,700 students. This follows a decline of 3.5% or 11,800 students the previous spring. Nearly 340,000 freshmen enrolled for the first time this spring, with nearly six out of 10 starting at a community college. Community college freshmen increased by 6,000 students or 3.1%, after experiencing declines the previous spring of 23,000 students or a 10.7% loss. This spring, public four-year colleges reported the largest freshmen increase of 7,300 students or a 10.8% bump. First-time enrollments are typically much less in spring than in fall terms (See Spring Freshman Enrollment Trends section, page 16).

The Current Term Enrollment Estimates (CTEE) Report Series is published in the spring and the fall of each year by the Research Center, with state-level spring enrollments broken out (see Tables 8a and 8b). A special analysis of the spring freshmen included this year highlights distinctive pandemic-related enrollment trends. The report provides national enrollment estimates by institutional sector, enrollment intensity, age group, gender, major field, and state. See the report’s methodological notes and understanding the numbers for other details.

Percent Change in Enrollment from Previous Year by Institutional Sector:
2018 to 2022

“College enrollment declines appear to be worsening.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center


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