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Pace of College Enrollment Decline Slowed Nationwide Prior to COVID-19 Impact

Research center to release June Special Enrollment Report due to the pandemic

Published on May 26, 2020

Overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 0.5 percent or 83,803 students from spring 2019, but the pace of decline slowed this year, according to the Spring 2020 Current Term Enrollment Estimates report. The report provides spring enrollment declines and increases for each state and the District of Columbia from 2018 to 2020.

“Prior to the pandemic, the research shows a slowing in the decline of enrollments nationally, and reversing declines in states like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “However, some states like Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw an acceleration of declines.

“This report should be viewed as a pre-shutdown baseline that does not reflect any effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on enrollments. In June 2020, the Research Center will issue a special report to show within-term enrollment status changes, such as withdrawals, new enrollments and shifts in enrollment intensity, that may be attributable to the pandemic. Our special June enrollment report will give states and institutions a view into the immediate impact the pandemic had on spring term enrollments.”

According to the report, public sector enrollments involving two- and four-year colleges combined, which enrolled nearly three-quarters of all postsecondary students, fell by 1.3 percent or 163,964 students, compared to 1.9 percent and 244,376 students reported last year. It is also noteworthy that the recent growth in graduate student enrollments appears to have leveled off this year, with a slight drop of 3,286 students (-0.1%), after increases of 1.7 percent and 2 percent in the previous two years.

As opposed to the overall declines, dual enrollments of students under age 18 grew at an unprecedented rate of 6.9 percent or 46,737 students to 722,843 students. Over 70 percent of dual enrollees were in a public two-year institution and 24 percent enrolled in a public four-year institution. This dual enrollment pattern remains largely consistent with the previous two years (69% in 2019 and 67% in 2018).

Top states with largest enrollment decreases by number of students:





New York






Top states with largest enrollment increases by number of students:





New Hampshire


North Carolina




The Current Term Enrollment Estimates Report Series is published every December and May by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. It provides national enrollment estimates by institutional sector, enrollment intensity, age group, gender, major field as well as state-level enrollment estimates. As of fall 2019, postsecondary institutions actively submitting enrollment data to the Clearinghouse account for 97 percent of the total enrollments at Title IV, degree-granting institutions in the United States.

Newsdesk Editor