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US Undergraduate Enrollment Worsened This Spring: Report

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A report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) has found that undergraduate enrollment in Spring 2022 dropped 4.7 percent compared to the previous year, signaling a deepening enrollment crisis in the US.

Current figures show that colleges and universities had 662,000 fewer students for spring undergraduate programs, while graduate enrollment fell by one percent. Total postsecondary enrollment saw a 4.1 percent decline — or 685,000 — from spring of last year.

NSCRC Executive Director Doug Shapiro pointed out that first-time freshmen enrollment did experience a slight increase. Still, the steady decline suggests a change in how higher education is valued and perceived.  

“That suggests it’s more than just the pandemic to me; it’s more than just low-income communities that are primarily served by community colleges. It suggests that there’s a broader question about the value of college and particularly concerns about student debt and paying for college and potential labor market returns,” Dr. Shapiro concluded.

Future Implications

Shapiro suggested that prospective students could be considering promising career opportunities that do not require a college degree. 

While elite universities have since bounced back from the enrollment drought, many public universities and community colleges continue to suffer the brunt of the declining student numbers.

“One of the things we are clearly seeing is that well-known institutions, flagship public colleges, have more applicants than they’ve ever had before at the same time that regional state colleges are often struggling,” American Council on Education Senior Vice President Terry Hartle said.

Other highlights include female enrollment dropping by 4.6 percent and enrollment of adults over the age of 24 decreasing by 5.8 percent this spring.

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