Colleges see largest two-year enrollment decline in 50 years amid pandemic

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Since the coronavirus pandemic began, colleges have seen their largest two-year decline in enrollment in 50 years, according to a study from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC).

The report found undergraduate enrollment dropped 6.5 percent from its pre-pandemic level two years ago.

In the last year alone, with COVID-19 restrictions continuing at universities around the U.S., enrollment numbers for undergraduates have fallen 3.2 percent.

“Enrollments are not getting better; they’re still getting worse,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the NSCRC, told CNBC

“Far from filling the hole of last year’s enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper,” he added.

Enrollment among freshmen in college has gone down the most among White and Black students, at a decline of 8.6 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, freshman Latino and Asian students also saw declines in enrollment, but at the lower rates of 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent.

“As you go down the selectivity scale, the overall declines start to grow,” Shapiro said. “Community colleges remain the most adversely affected sector, experiencing a 14.1% total enrollment decline since fall 2019.” For freshmen, the drop-off over the same time period is even steeper, at 20.8 percent.

CNBC notes that community colleges, which are attended by students that are on average older and lower-income than those at four-year institutions, could have had more difficulty juggling the economic impact the virus took on the country.

Tags College enrollment COVID-19 Higher education

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