Higher education is already feeling a lot of pain because of the pandemic, but it’s going to get worse.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Report: Enrollment Continues to Trend Downward

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has bad news. Again.

Its latest fall 2020 enrollment report continues to show downward trajectories nearly across the board in higher education. As of Sept. 24, undergraduate enrollment is now 4 percent lower than it was last fall — a 1.5-percentage-point decrease from earlier this semester.

This latest report includes data from more colleges. It’s based on reporting from about 54 percent of postsecondary institutions, or data for 9.2 million students, compared to 22 percent of institutions earlier this fall. The next update is scheduled for Nov. 12.

The largest declines of all are in first-year students. Just over 16 percent fewer freshmen have enrolled this fall compared to last year. Graduate enrollment was trending upward earlier. While it’s still an increase over last year, that gain has slipped by 1.3 percentage points.

“For the most part, things are worse by almost half,” said Douglas Shapiro, executive director of the clearinghouse. “But we really don’t have a way to know whether that is likely to continue.”

Somewhat surprisingly, public and private nonprofit four-year institutions are doing relatively well, he said during a webinar presenting the report.


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