College Enrollment Sees Big Decline This Fall

October 15, 2020

Universities and colleges are seeing enrollment rates fall sharply as the coronavirus disrupts students’ plans. Overall populations for undergraduates fell about 4%, but the population of first-year students is down 16%, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The biggest drop came from enrollment in public two-year community colleges, which is down a staggering 22.7% this year. Public four-year universities are down about 14%, while private four-year universities fared a bit better, falling nearly 12%.

Experts have noted that enrollment rates generally increase during economic downturns, as people who lost their jobs opt to go back to school. The potential risk of large gatherings have put some people off of enrollment, but some economists also argue that the talk about a rapid, V-shaped recovery may have led some to think it was not necessary and that they would be able to return to work quickly.

Economists also worry about the impact that lower enrollment rates will have on college towns, who derive much of their revenue from the student population.

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