Enrollment decline continues

Biggest drop-off seen among older students

College enrollment fell for the fourth year in a row this fall, mainly because of steep declines among adult students, community colleges, and for-profit institutions, according to the latest report from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).

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Results varied by sector. Enrollment:

  • Declined 2.4% at two-year public institutions;
  • Declined 0.3% at four-year private nonprofit institutions; but
  • Increased 0.4% at four-year public institutions.

"We judge the improving job market to be the biggest factor, with the unemployment rate dropping to 5% this fall," Jason Dewitt, NSC's research manager, tells Inside Higher Ed. He points out that students over the age of 24 are the group most likely to choose a job over college.

Thirteen states saw enrollment rise, but eight saw sharp decline over the past year (Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, 12/16; Korn, Wall Street Journal, 12/16; National Student Clearinghouse release, accessed 12/16).

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