Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information
National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Regular Updates on Higher Education Enrollment
November 18, 2021
In fall 2021, the second fall semester of the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges have fully resumed in-person classes amid the resurgence of the coronavirus. With continued challenges of responding quickly to 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, fall 2019 serves as baselines to investigate COVID-19’s continued impact on the fall 2021 enrollment (see Methodological Notes for more details).
Fall 2021 Enrollment (As of Oct 21)
Roughly two months into the second fall semester of the pandemic, postsecondary enrollment is now running 2.6 percent below last year’s level, for a total 5.8 percent drop since 2019. Undergraduate enrollment declined 3.5 percent from last fall or 7.8 percent from fall 2019. Graduate enrollment grew 2.1 percent, maintaining the upward trend from last fall (+2.7%), for a total 4.9 percent growth since 2019.
Undergraduate enrollment continued to trend downward across all sectors, with the steepest drops in the private for-profit four-year and public two-year institutions. Undergraduate female students declined slightly more than males (-4.1% and -3.4%, respectively). Continued enrollment losses among traditional college-age students (18-24) remain concerning (-2.6% for 18-20 and -3.3% for 21-24).
Freshman enrollment went down again (-2.7% from last fall or -13.1% since 2019) and in all sectors, except private nonprofit four-year institutions (+2.5% from last fall).