College enrollment numbers down as pandemic lingers on
College enrollment is down as the country continues battling back from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) shows undergraduate enrollment is down 3.2% this year, the second consecutive year it has been in decline.
Enrollment is on a negative trajectory at both four-year universities and community colleges, down 2.3% and 5.6%, respectively. The numbers are based on data so far from half of the post-secondary institutions that the NSCRC collects its data from, affecting 8.4 million students.
Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at the University of Tennessee, told Yahoo Finance the latest enrollment data is “depressing.”
“These data are depressing, but they also show that the effects of the pandemic on higher education are far from over,” Kelchen said.
Combined with last year, enrollment has dropped 6.5% in total, according to the report.
Kelchen said he believes prospective students are having to make tough decisions about their future due to strains the COVID-19 pandemic has put on them.
“These enrollment declines could be due to potential students choosing employment in a tight labor market over going to college or difficulties finding childcare during a pandemic,” Kelchen told Yahoo Finance.
The information released by the NSCRC seems to reinforce recent census data that shows the education sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with college enrollment in 2020 at its lowest point since 2007.
Doug Shapiro, executive director of the NSCRC, said the center continues to see undergraduate enrollment declines that don’t seem to be improving as the pandemic lingers on.
“Far from filling the hole of last year’s enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper,” Doug Shapiro said in a statement. “A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see significant nationwide declines in undergraduate students, and community colleges remain the most adversely affected sector, experiencing a 14.1% total enrollment decline since fall 2019.”
One area that doesn’t seem to have been negatively impacted by the pandemic is graduate student enrollment, which has increased by 2.1% since last year and 5.3% over the past two years, according to the NSCRC report.