The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center has updated data on new high school graduates entering college last fall following a data processing error that projected a far larger enrollment drop among those students.
The decrease among 2020 high school graduates attending community college in the fall was -13.2%, according to a new report from the center. In December, the center reported a -30% decrease among these students based on preliminary data at the time. In 2019, community colleges saw a 1.3% increase among new high school graduates.
The -13.2% figure aligns more with the center’s estimated fall enrollments for community colleges that showed an -18.8% drop among first-time college students ages 18 to 20.
“These results indicate that community colleges remain the worst-hit sector by Covid-19 while public four-year colleges appear to be the least affected, with a small drop from the prior year [-3% for 2020],” according to the report.
The figures released on Thursday include corrected data and 50% more data from high schools and colleges. They comprise information from about 860,000 graduates from 3,500 high schools and fall enrollments at 87% of all postsecondary institutions that report their data to NSC.
Even with the corrected figures, there are still significant gaps among student populations, especially at community colleges. Far fewer graduates from low-income high schools (-18%) enrolled at community colleges than in 2019, when there was a 2.4% increase among these students, according to the report. Among recent students from wealthier high schools, the enrollment drop was -8.8% last fall, following a 0.4 increase in fall 2019.
“These new data reflect the enrollment declines community colleges saw last fall, where first-time students and students of color saw significantly higher rates of decline than did returning students and non-minority students,” said Kent Phillippe, associate vice president of research and student success at the American Association of Community Colleges.