“Overall, enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward since around 2012, but the pandemic turbocharged the declines at the undergrad level.”
The effects of the pandemic on higher education are only beginning to be felt. Things are going to get worse.
College enrollment plummeted during the pandemic. This fall, it’s even worse
Enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities is on track to fall by another nearly 500,000 undergraduate students this fall, continuing the historic drops that began with the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data out Tuesday.
The decline of 3.2% in undergraduate enrollment this fall follows a similar drop of 3.4% the previous year, the first fall of the pandemic, according to the research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The numbers are from a preliminary data set representing 8.4 million undergrad and graduate students from about 50% of U.S. colleges. The numbers show there are now 240,000 fewer undergraduates enrolled this fall compared with the same time last year, and if that rate of decline holds up for the rest of the colleges, that could translate into almost a half-million fewer undergraduate students.
“It’s very frightening,” says Doug Shapiro, who runs the nonprofit research center. “Far from filling the hole of last year’s enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper.”
If these preliminary numbers hold up, Shapiro says the last two years of undergrad decline, totaling more than 6%, would be the largest two-year decrease in at least half a century.
Overall, enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward since around 2012, but the pandemic turbocharged the declines at the undergrad level. When fewer students go to college, fewer students graduate, get job training and move on to higher-paying jobs, meaning all this could have huge ramifications for the U.S. economy.
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