NSC report shows total enrollment down by 4.1 percent
Enrollment across all sectors of higher education continued to decline this past semester, extending a trend that began during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The latest numbers mark the fifth semester in a row of declining overall enrollment. The decline is even more marked at the undergraduate level, where NSC data show an enrollment drop of 4. Though much of the report may be concerning for higher education, first-time freshman enrollment is a bright spot in the latest data, up by 4. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center officials discussed the latest data during a Wednesday press call, touching on the highlights and low points of the report. The ongoing enrollment slide indicates that there’s more at play than the lingering impact of the pandemic.
“It suggests that there is a broader questioning of the value of college and particularly concerns about student debt and paying for college and the potential labor market returns,” Shapiro said. Broken down by sector, the new data show public community colleges are again hit the hardest on enrollment, experiencing a 7. Graduate student enrollment, which had previously been trending upward, fell by 0. Looking at states, California saw the most significant enrollment decline this spring at 8. Excluding states where an NSC footnote indicates data were “impacted by the reclassification of former multi-state for-profit four-year institutions” or states that had inconsistent data submission, New Hampshire experienced the largest rate of student growth at 8. Some higher education observers expressed alarm at the latest National Student Clearinghouse report.
“These ongoing enrollment declines demand immediate attention from all who support students in high school, in postsecondary institutions, and in the workforce,” Kim Cook, CEO of the National College Attainment Network, wrote in an emailed statement to Inside Higher Ed. Kathy Dawley, who works on enrollment initiatives at EAB, a higher education consulting firm, noted that while the report highlights a number of challenges for higher education, there is at least a silver lining in terms of increased enrollment for first-time freshmen this spring semester. But the downward trend for Black students in that freshman class is worrisome, she added. “We know that particular pandemic-related stressors threatened some real significant progress we were making, particularly by ethnicity and by income-disadvantaged kids,” Dawley said.
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