Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information
National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Regular Updates on Higher Education Enrollment
April 29, 2021
Beginning in mid-March 2020, many colleges across the U.S. shifted to online-only learning almost overnight. Currently, due to the uncertainty caused by a resurgence of the coronavirus and the challenges of responding to quickly evolving logistical concerns, institutional leaders and students alike are faced with difficult decisions that must be made with a lack of reliable, up-to-date information.
Recognizing the urgency of COVID-19’s impact on students and institutions, the Research Center’s Stay Informed series tracks outstanding college enrollment trends in near real-time during the COVID-19 era. It delivers enrollment data dashboards each term, starting with summer 2020. The dashboards are updated regularly using the latest enrollment data available in the coming months and years.
To highlight unique enrollment patterns that are attributable to the pandemic, the two most recent years (2019 and 2020) serve as baselines to investigate COVID-19’s impact on the spring 2021 enrollment (see Methodological Notes for more details).
Spring 2021 Enrollment (As of March 25)
Three months into the spring semester, undergraduate enrollment is in its steepest decline so far since the pandemic began (-5.9%). Community college enrollment fell by double digits (-11.3%) for the first time in this pandemic. Graduate enrollment, on the other hand, continues to grow this spring (+4.4%). Overall postsecondary enrollment is down 4.2 percent from a year ago.
Students aged 18-20, comprising over 40 percent of all undergraduates, saw the largest enrollment decline of any age group this spring (-7.2%), with the steepest drop occurring at community colleges (-14.6%). There is still no sign of any recession-related increase in adult enrollment at community colleges.
Enrollment in healthcare majors is faring better than other common undergraduate major fields of study during the pandemic. Students enrolling in education graduate programs are growing considerably this spring (+3.7% in master’s and +8.2% in doctoral degree programs).
Current Term Enrollment Estimates Spring 2021 Final Report with Enrollment Numbers (June)