Students walk at the University of California, Berkeley on Aug. 30. Photo: David Odisho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
College enrollment has declined for the third school year in a row, but the drop may be cooling after reaching historic levels during the pandemic, per a report out Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse.
Why it matters: With each passing school year of declining enrollment, “a path back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels is growing further out of reach,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the nonprofit research center, warned.
- “After two straight years of historically large losses, it is particularly troubling that numbers are still falling, especially among freshmen,” Shapiro said in a release.
Driving the news: Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment combined declined 1.1% between fall of 2021 and 2022, leading to a total two-year decline of 3.2% since 2020, per the nonprofit.
- Freshmen enrollment declined by 1.5% overall, with numbers dropping in all four-year sectors. Highly selective institutions saw the largest drop in freshmen enrollment, with a 5.6% decline compared to a 10.7% gain in fall 2021.
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities and primary online institutions were among the few category of schools to see an enrollment increase.
- HBCU’s enrollment grew 2.5% this fall and at primarily online institutions, undergraduate enrollment grew by 3.2% from last fall, per the report.
- Community colleges saw the smallest declines in enrollment, posting a 0.4% enrollment loss compared to fall 2021.
Between the lines: That’s good news for community colleges, as those institutions bore much of the brunt of the pandemic drop-off.
- Community college enrollment dropped by 9.5% during the spring of 2021, with a loss of 476,000 students, Axios’ Bryan Walsh reports.
State of play: The pandemic accelerated the trend of falling college enrollment, which had been occurring since 2012.
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