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College Enrollment Is Dropping and That's Not a Bad Thing

According to a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, some older students are actually leaving school to return to an improving job market. Since last year, enrollment dropped by 0.8 percent; over the previous year, enrollment declined 2.3 percent.

empty classroom 

(Photo Credit: shaylor/Flickr)

Four-year private nonprofit colleges, which continue to suffer financially, celebrated a small victory with a 2 percent increase in enrollment and four-year public colleges saw a slight 0.7 percent uptake. Four-year private for-profit colleges dropped steeply at 4.9 percent and enrollments at two-year public colleges were also down.

Percent Change from Previous Year, Enrollment by Sector (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)


(Image Credit: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

Age demographics also played a role in the statistics, with a drop in enrollment amongst students over 24 years old. In an article by Katherine Mangan of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the center’s research manager, Jason Dewitt attributed the decrease to older students being drawn away by an improving job market.

Also in a positive light was the increase in enrollment amongst students 24 and younger, which Dewitt said is a surprise considering the decline in size of high-school graduating classes. In Mangan’s article, Doug Shapiro, executive research director, says the increase could be “an early indicator that the demand for college degrees among young adults is returning to its historic growth trend.”

The report, which breaks down enrollment trends by category, showed enrollment declines amongst 37 states and increases in 13, with overall enrollment declines amongst women and part-time students.

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