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Undergraduate Enrollment Slips for Second Year: Report

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Post-secondary institutions in the US reported another year of declining undergraduate enrollment, according to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center. The report is based on 50 percent of institutions representing over 8 million college students.

Fall 2021 numbers fell by 3.2 percent — echoing last year’s 3.4 percent drop. Decreasing student enrollment has affected both public two-and four-year schools and private for-profit universities, the nonprofit research center reported.

Community colleges and public two-year institutions have fared the worst in freshman enrollment this fall. Enrollment numbers are at least 12 percent lower at these institutions compared to 2019.

“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,” Executive Director of the NSC Research Center, Doug Shapiro, said.

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White, Black, and Native American freshmen numbers experienced the steepest drop this year. Schools also reported a drop in business, health care, and liberal arts students. 

“Enrollments are not getting better,” Shapiro remarked. “They’re still getting worse,” expressing great concern. He said if enrollment numbers don’t improve, this “would be the largest enrollment decline in at least the last 50 years in the US.”

Despite plummeting undergraduate enrollment, data showed that a few highly selective state flagship and private nonprofit four-year institutions fared better than most of their other counterparts. Graduate enrollment has also spiked compared to last year. 

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