College Enrollment Declines for Fourth Straight Year

Most of the drop is at for-profit and community colleges

Enrollments at colleges and universities dropped for the eighth semester in a row this fall, down nearly 2 percent below what they were last fall, new figures show.

The number of students over 24 continued to decline sharply—more than 4 percent—according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this. Enrollment at four-year for-profit institutions plunged by nearly 14 percent.

Four-year public universities and colleges saw an incremental increase in their number of students, up by less than half of 1 percent. Enrollments at private nonprofit institutions fell by more than 3 percent.

“This fall’s numbers show ongoing challenges for colleges and universities,” said Doug Shapiro, the research center’s executive director. “Adult students are still leaving higher education in large numbers, particularly for-profit institutions and community colleges.”

In all, U.S. university and college enrollment has fallen 6 percent in the last four years, even as policymakers push to increase the proportion of the population with degrees.

[Cross-posted at Hechinger Report

Jon Marcus

Jon Marcus is a higher education editor at the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.