Spring College Enrollments Are Down 600,000 Students!

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Dear Commons Community,

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is reporting  that total college enrollments declined 3.5 percent or 603,000 students in Spring 2021 compared to one year ago.  The 3.5-percent figure is the largest year-over-year decline since the Research Center began publishing enrollment data a decade ago.

Overall spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million from 17.5 million, marking a one-year decline of 3.5 percent or 603,000 students, seven times worse than the decline a year earlier. Undergraduate students accounted for all of the decline, with a 4.9 percent drop or 727,000 students. In contrast, graduate enrollment jumped by 4.6 percent, adding more than 124,000 students.

While every institution sector saw undergraduate enrollment dip this spring, community colleges remain hardest hit (-9.5% or 476,000 fewer students). Over 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses occurred in the community college sector.

Among all age groups, traditional college-age students declined the most (-5%, age 18-24), largely attributable to their steep losses at community colleges (-13.2%). Adult students (25 or older), on the other hand, show a 2 to 3 percent gain at public four-year and private nonprofit four-year colleges.

Enrollment among male students continued to fall more steeply than female students (400,000 fewer male students and 203,000 fewer female students compared with last spring). 

In looking at the data, while much of the decline is due to the pandemic, they also reflect a decrease in the number of high school graduates.


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