Overview

In fall 2018, overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.7 percent from the previous fall. Figure 1 shows the 12-month percentage change (fall-to-fall and spring-to-spring) for each term over the last three years. Enrollments increased 2.4 percent at four-year private nonprofit institutions, but this increase was largely due to the recent conversion of a large for profit institution to nonprofit status. Enrollments decreased among four-year for-profit institutions (-15.1 percent) and two year public institutions (-3.2 percent) and were virtually unchanged at four-year public institutions. Taken as a whole, public sector enrollment (2-year and 4-year combined) declined by 1.3 percent this fall.

Current Term Enrollment Estimates, published every December and May by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, include national enrollment estimates by institutional sector, state, enrollment intensity, age group, and gender. Enrollment estimates are adjusted for Clearinghouse data coverage rates by institutional sector, state, and year. As of fall 2018, postsecondary institutions actively submitting enrollment data to the Clearinghouse account for 97 percent of enrollments at U.S. Title IV, degree-granting institutions. Most institutions submit enrollment data to the Clearinghouse several times per term, resulting in highly current data. Moreover, since the Clearinghouse collects data at the student level, it is possible to report an unduplicated headcount, which avoids double-counting students who are simultaneously enrolled at multiple institutions.

Figure 1: Percent Change from Previous Year, Enrollment by Sector (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

 

 

Table 1: Estimated National Enrollment by Sector (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

  Fall 2018 Fall 2017 Fall 2016
Sector Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year
Total
Enrollment, All Sectors

18,482,391

-1.7% 18,811,280 -1.0% 19,010,459 -1.4%
Four-Year, Public

8,087,410

0.0% 8,087,105 -0.2% 8,100,118 0.2%
Four-Year, Private Nonprofit

3,864,957

2.4% 3,775,147 -0.4% 3,788,980 -0.6%
Four-Year, For-Profit

765,596

-15.1% 901,331 -7.1% 970,267 -14.5%
Two-Year, Public

5,445,562

-3.2% 5,624,282 -1.7% 5,721,676 -2.6%
Unduplicated Student Headcount (All Sectors)

18,196,846 

-1.4% 18,463,677 -1.1% 18,663,617 -1.4%

UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS

Table 1 provides counts of fall term enrollments submitted to the Clearinghouse by December 1 of each year. Enrollments represent one student in one institution and thus would count twice a student enrolled simultaneously at two institutions. The unduplicated headcount provides the number of unique students with no double-counting. This figure can be used to determine the percentage of concurrent enrollments in any given year. In each term, fewer than 2.0 percent of total enrollments can be accounted for by students enrolling in more than one institution.

Institutional classifications for the current term are based on the most recently available IPEDS institutional characteristics at the time of publication. Less-than-two-year institutions have been aggregated with two-year institutions. Two-year for-profits and two-year private nonprofits are not shown in the table due to small counts, but enrollments from those sectors are included in the overall totals. Additional notes on data and coverage are included at the end of this document.

Table 2: Estimated National Enrollment of First-Time College Students by Sector (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Fall 2018 Fall 2017 Fall 2016
Sector Age Group Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year
All Sectors

All (18 and Over)

2,538,767

-4.3% 2,652,584 -2.3% 2,715,815 -1.5%
18 to 24

2,325,090

-3.2% 2,401,666 -1.0% 2,426,292 -0.7%
Over 24

213,677

-14.8% 250,918 -13.3% 289,523 -7.6%
Four-Year, Public All (18 and Over)

1,031,459

0.6% 1,025,757 -1.1% 1,036,823 -0.4%
18 to 24

990,950

-0.4% 994,556 -0.6% 1,000,544 -0.1%
Over 24

40,509

29.8% 31,201 -14.0% 36,279 -9.3%
Four-Year, Private Nonprofit All (18 and Over)

451,910

1.3% 446,290 -2.6% 458,072 -1.2%
18 to 24

425,940

-0.2% 426,853 -1.7% 434,100 -0.4%
Over 24

25,970

33.6% 19,437 -18.9% 23,972 -13.9%
Four-Year, For-Profit All (18 and Over)

33,773

-37.2% 53,787 -9.3% 59,311 -23.3%
18 to 24

17,466

-36.2% 27,360 -5.4% 28,921 -23.6%
Over 24

16,307

-38.3% 26,427 -13.0% 30,390 -22.9%
Two-Year, Public All (18 and Over)

977,911

-8.7% 1,071,401 -2.3% 1,096,600 -1.4%
18 to 24

848,884

-7.3% 916,164 -0.5% 921,111 -0.7%
Over 24

129,027

-16.9% 155,237 -11.5% 175,489 -4.6%

UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS

Table 2 provides counts of fall term enrollments for undergraduate students entering college for the first time. Counts of first-time undergraduates for a fall term are limited to students who had no college enrollment (in any postsecondary institution) at age 18 or above prior to the beginning of the fall term and had not completed a college degree prior to the beginning of the fall term. Former dual enrollment students, first-time college students who had enrolled in college courses while still in high school, are included in the counts of first-time students for a fall term.

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Table 3:   Estimated Enrollment in Private Nonprofit Institutions by Size of Institution (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 4:   Estimated National Enrollment by Sector and Program Level (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 5:   Estimated National Enrollment by Sector and Intensity Level (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 6:   Estimated National Enrollment by Sector and Age Group  (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 7:   Estimated National Enrollment by Sector and Gender  (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 8:   Estimated Enrollment by State of Institution  (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)

Table 9:   Estimated Undergraduate Enrollment at Four-Year Institutions by Classification of Instructional Program Family

Table 10:   Estimated Undergraduate Enrollment at Two-Year Institutions by Classification of Instructional Program Family

Notes on the Data