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Undergrad enrollment takes huge hit, down 727,000 students

Due to ‘persistent impact of COVID-19 related disruptions’

Enrollment in American colleges and universities nosedived this spring, with a decline of 603,000 students from the previous school year, or 3.5 percent, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Those larger numbers, if anything, undersell the decline and its potential long-term effects to higher education.

There was an increase in grad students, by 124,000 students, which cushioned the blow.

What that means according to the National Student Clearinghouse is that “Undergraduate students accounted for all of the decline, with a 4.9 percent drop or 727,000 students.”

Colleges and universities saw fewer undergrads enrolled almost across the board, but “community colleges remain hardest hit,” the research center reported.

In fact, “Over 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses occurred in the community college sector.”

Community colleges, which feature prominently in President Biden’s plans to give some free college to all Americans, had 467,000 fewer students enrolled, for a 9.5 percent decline.

Enrollment among college students of a traditional age range of 18 to 24 fell the most, largely due to the community college dropoff.

Male potential students declined to register in larger numbers than future female students.

There were “400,000 fewer male students and 203,000 fewer female students compared with last spring,” the research center reported.

The National Student Clearinghouse chalked up these declines to “the persistent impact of COVID-19 related disruptions,” a statement that is true in a few senses.

Many people’s lives have been disrupted by COVID, causing some to make different choices and not further their formal education at this time.

Education itself has also been disrupted, with distance learning, mask and looming vaccine requirements, space limitations, and other restrictions. These changes collectively make for a less-than-ideal learning environment for many current and would-be students.

MORE: University of Vermont to gut College of Arts and Sciences amid enrollment decrease, budget shortfall

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About the Author
Jeremy Lott is assistant editor of The College Fix, a publication of the Student Free Press Association. Jeremy founded three of the Real Clear Politics family of websites. He has covered subjects ranging from religious trends to space travel to an armed standoff, for hundreds of publications. His books and comic books include The Warm Bucket Brigade: A History of the Vice Presidency, William F. Buckley, and Movie Men. Jeremy graduated from Trinity Western University, where he served as an editor for the Mars Hill newspaper.