Finalized Spring Enrollment Numbers Shows Significant Drop

Related Topics in the Ref Desk: Enrollment Status

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

College enrollments in the past year have dropped by 3.5%, a decline that, according to a new report, accounts for 603,000 fewer students attending institutions nationwide.

The biannual report, published each December and May, is a part of the National Student Clearinghouse’s Current Term Enrollment Estimates (CTEE) series and provides a breakdown of the most current national enrollment estimates by institutional sector, enrollment intensity, age group, gender, and major field, as well as state-level enrollment estimates.

This most recent report differs from a previous analysis that was intended to measure the immediate effects of the pandemic by analyzing year-over-year percentage change in unadjusted, preliminary data.

Overall, spring enrollment in this most recent data set — that provides estimated postsecondary enrollment numbers based on the clearinghouse universe of institutions — fell from 17.5 million to 16.9 million, with undergraduate students accounting for the entirety of the decline, with a 4.9% drop, or 727,000 students.

In contrast, graduate enrollment jumped by 4.6%, adding more than 124,000 students.

The finalized data also determined that while every sector saw undergraduate enrollment dip this spring, community colleges continue to be the hardest hit, dropping by 9.5% or 476,000 students. In all, the community college sector accounted for over 65% of the total undergraduate enrollment losses.

Among all age groups, enrollment among students aged 18-24 saw the largest decline, dropping 5% overall. Enrollment among students of that age group at community college fell even more sharply, by 13.2%.

Enrollment among adult learners — those aged 25 or older — actually increased by 2% to 3% at public four-year and private nonprofit four-year colleges.


Publication Date: 6/11/2021

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