Downward enrollment trend continues

Source: "Term Enrollment Estimates, Spring 2017," National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Enrollments at community colleges continue to slide, but the pace of the decrease has also slowed down, according to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center.

Overall, spring 2017 undergraduate enrollments at all postsecondary institutions fell again compared to spring 2016 enrollments by 1.9 percent (300,000 students), according to new report from the center. Only public four-year institutions showed slight gains. Two-year public colleges saw a dip of 2.5 percent, or 138,000 students.

“The spring 2017 numbers reinforce the trends that we saw in the fall term, and will likely continue: enrollments at community colleges and smaller non-profits declining, while four-year public colleges and larger privates hold steady,” said Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the NSC Research Center.

Between spring 2015 and 2017, public two-year enrollments decreased by 4.8 percent, 3.3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, according to data. Enrollments from fall 2014 to 2016 dipped from 4.4 percent to 2.9 percent to 2.6 percent. So the pace of the decreases continues to slow down.

Although the decreases continue among full-time and part-time students, students under 24 and those who are older, and among men and women, again the rate of declines is steadily slowing, according to the center’s report.

A look at majors

The center’s report also looked at enrollment among students’ focus areas. The top five majors by enrollment at two-year institutions are:

  • Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities (1.9 million)
  • Health professions and related programs (775,479)
  • Business, management, marketing and related support (574,864)
  • Computer information sciences and support services (201,377)
  • Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting/related services (197,826)

With the exception of computer and information sciences—which saw a nearly 4 percent increase—all the majors saw drops in numbers, with homeland security/law enforcement/firefighting seeing a 9 percent drop.

The top five majors with the largest percentage increase in enrollments at two-year colleges are:

  • Biological and biomedical sciences (8.5 percent)
  • Foreign languages, literature and linguistics (6.4 percent)
  • Psychology (5.9 percent)
  • History (5.5 percent)
  • Basic skills and developmental/remedial education (5.4 percent)

The major with the largest drop in enrollments in the sector:

  • Transportation and materials moving (-16 percent)
  • Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting/related services (-9 percent)
  • Public administration and social service professionals (-8.9 percent)
  • Legal professions and studies (-7.9 percent)
  • Construction trades (-7.5 percent)

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