Ups And Downs

December 12, 2013

Article Overview: 
College enrollment is falling, but not everywhere.

Career College Central summary:

  • After years of rapid enrollment growth, U.S. higher education is settling into a new normal. Two decades of sustained enrollment gains at American high schools have ended, and the overall high school population is now in decline, according to a report produced by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
  • Community colleges around the country are experiencing the downward enrollment trend. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment at two-year public colleges — pumped up since 2007 by the effects of the Great Recession — is now headed in the opposite direction. In the spring of 2013, enrollment in the sector dropped by 3.6 percent compared to the year before. Only enrollment at four-year for-profit colleges has declined at a faster clip.
  • The effects can be seen on campuses around the country:
  • In Iowa, community college enrollment this fall dropped 3.5 percent, the third consecutive year of decline, according to fall enrollment data. Enrollment at Iowa’s 15 community colleges peaked in 2010 at more than 106,000 students. This fall’s enrollment estimate is 97,054.
  • In Maryland, fall enrollment at Anne Arundel Community College has dipped 6.7 percent over the last year. Enrollment dropped from 17,650 full- and part-time students in fall 2012 to 16,463 students this fall. That means a $3 million decline in revenues, leaving the school looking for ways to cut costs.
  • In Ohio, the number of students going to college started to fall in 2012 after rapid enrollment growth following the 2007 economic meltdown. Last year, statewide college enrollment dropped almost 6 percent, bringing many schools close to their pre-recession levels. This year, enrollment fell 2 percent more, with several community colleges dropping in the double digits.
  • But the national enrollment declines mask some important regional trends, according to an analysis by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The number of high school graduates is actually on the rise in many states in the South and the West. Meanwhile, high school graduating classes are growing more diverse. Between 2008-09 and 2019-20, the number of white high school graduates will drop by 228,000, while Hispanic graduates will increase by 197,000, the WICHE report found.

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