Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information
National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Monthly Update on Higher Education Enrollment
November 12, 2020
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 monthly 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 (2018 and 2019) serve as baselines (see Methodological Notes for more details).
Fall 2020 Enrollment (As of Oct 22)
With 76 percent of colleges reporting data, undergraduate enrollment has been revised downward. Roughly two months into the fall term, undergraduate enrollment is running 4.4 percent below last year’s level and for-profit four-year colleges are now showing slight drops. Graduate enrollment is up 2.9 percent and overall postsecondary enrollment is down 3.3 percent compared to the same time last year.
The decline in freshman enrollment has been revised upward from last month’s reporting of a 16.1 percent drop, to a still substantial decline of 13.0 percent. Community colleges are showing the steepest decline (-18.9%), almost 19 times the pre-pandemic loss rate, followed by public four-year colleges (-10.5%) and private nonprofit four-year institutions (-8.5%).