National report: Higher education enrollment down 1.8 percent

As college administrators anxiously track enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic, the national numbers so far appear mixed.

Overall, enrollment is down by 1.8 percent, the National Student Clearinghouse Data Center reported last week. But that drop isn’t as dire as the predictions. After the start of the pandemic, some national forecasts warned of dropoffs in the 20 percent range, which could throw colleges and universities into financial peril.

The numbers are anything but uniform. A few important data points:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is down 2.5 percent. However, graduate school enrollment is up by 3.9 percent.
  • Those patterns also apply across all demographic groups. For Latino students, undergraduate enrollment is down 3.3 percent, while graduate school enrollment is up 14.2 percent. For American Indian students, undergraduate enrollment fell by 7.7 percent, while graduate enrollment increased by 10.2 percent.
  • Community colleges are taking the hardest hit, reporting a 7.5 percent drop in enrollment. Public four-year schools are seeing a 0.4 percent decrease in undergraduate enrollment, and a 4.7 percent increase in graduate school enrollment.
  • International student enrollment — a lucrative source of tuition and fees, particularly for public colleges — is down by 11.2 percent.

The National Student Clearinghouse data comes from 629 institutions, about one-fifth of the colleges and universities that report to the nonprofit. None of the 629 reporting institutions are based in Idaho.

Enrollment data for Idaho colleges and universities will be released in October. Preliminary reports are mixed. For example, Boise State University and the College of Southern Idaho are reporting slight increases, while the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and the College of Western Idaho are projecting slight decreases.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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