Understanding the Recession’s Impact on U.S. College Enrollment and Persistence Patterns

The first Signature Report separates fact from fiction on the Great Recession’s impact on higher education enrollment, bringing college administrators and policymakers the knowledge on how the changed economy has altered student behaviors in enrollment and persistence.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Community college increases drove overall enrollment trends
  • Four-year private sector maintained its market share more effectively than predicted, despite concerns about affordability
  • The proportion of students enrolling full time in public two-year institutions increased slightly; four-year institutions saw virtually no change
  • Enrollment patterns varied across geographic regions
  • Although persistence rates were considerably higher than retention rates, they were not influenced by the recession

The complete Signature Report includes detailed trend summaries and related tables; color charts broken down by regions, institution types, years, and other important variables; and insight and future recommendations from the authors.

Suggested Citation: Dundar, A., Hossler, D., Shapiro, D., Chen, J., Martin, S., Torres, V., Zerquera, D., & Ziskin, M. (2011, July). National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession (Signature Report No.1). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.