Nearly 2% drop in enrollments

Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, "Current Term Enrollment Estimates, Fall 2017," December 2017.

New data indicate that enrollments at public two-year colleges continue to drop but at a slower rate.

More than 97,000 fewer students (a 1.7 percent drop) enrolled in public two-year colleges in fall 2017 compared to fall 2016, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center.

Enrollment drops for the three previous years were 2.6 percent, and 2.9 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, according to the data.

Overall undergraduate enrollments fell by nearly 224,000 students this fall, the center said. Enrollments in graduate and professional programs increased by more than 24,000, but these gains were outweighed by the decrease in undergraduate enrollments.

Trends on first-time students

The annual report also now provides enrollment counts for students entering college for the first time. These new student enrollments declined compared to fall 2016 by 63,000, including more than 38,000 fewer students over the age of 24 and nearly 25,000 fewer students in the 18 to 24 age group.

At public two-years, adults over age 24 led in first-time student enrollment declines. Among ages 18 to 24, the drop was 0.5 percent, compared to a 0.7 percent dip the previous year. Among students over age 24, the decrease was 11.5 percent, compared to a 4.6 percent drop last year.

“The decline in total fall enrollments is now in its sixth straight year but, at just 1.0 percent for 2017, the pace has slowed to its smallest rate since the end of the recession,” Doug Shapiro, NSC Research Center’s executive research director said in a statement. “What’s new is that the decline in numbers of first-year students is accelerating, even among traditional-age students. This suggests further declines to come overall in the years ahead, which will continue to present planning challenges for institutions and policymakers seeking to adapt to new economic and demographic realities.”

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