College Enrollment Continues to Shrink

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enrollment declines by about 7% since the start of the pandemic; Community colleges most affected

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The shortage has translated into a spurt in school mergers and closures, along with deep cuts in many schools.

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“Our final look at 2021 enrollment shows undergraduates continue to sit in draws as colleges navigate another year of COVID-19,” wrote Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director.

College enrollment has been on a downward trend for a decade, driven by a declining demographic. The pandemic accelerated the decline.

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Nationwide, 14,441,432 graduate students are enrolled in US colleges and universities this fall. The biggest drop was among students seeking associate degrees: their enrollment fell by 6.2% this year.

Enrollment fell in each of the five largest undergraduate majors at four-year colleges. Among those top five, the decline in liberal arts enrollment was the sharpest at 7.6%. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment in computer science and psychology increased by 1.3% and 2.5%, respectively.

Only four states increased overall decline enrollment: Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The states with the sharpest declines include Wyoming, Vermont and Delaware.

The picture isn’t nearly as dire in the country’s graduate schools, which have enrolled 2,860,932 students – an increase of nearly 100,000 since the pandemic began.

Write Douglas Belkin at [email protected]

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