Fall 2022 undergraduate enrollment was down just 0.6% compared to Fall 2021, an indication that it has begun to stabilize after several years of steep enrollment losses, according to a recent update from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The Clearinghouse report, which reflects data from 97% of all U.S. postsecondary institutions, offered some signs of hope that enrollment might recover, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
First-year enrollment, though down 150,000 students compared to Fall 2019, grew 4.3% (+97,000 students) compared to last fall. First-year enrollment also rose across all institution types, with the largest growth in community college enrollment (+6.1%) and public four-year colleges (+3.9%) compared with last fall.
Signs of hope and room for improvement
The largest increase in first-year students was among Latine students (+7.9%), followed by Asian students (+7.4%) , and Native American students (+6.9%). The number of Black first-year students remained stable year-over-year, while the number of white first-year students fell compared to the previous year.
“It’s very encouraging to start seeing signs of a recovery here, even though there’s still a long way to go before freshmen classes return to their 2019 levels,” said Doug Shapiro, the research center’s executive director, according to Higher Ed Dive.
Experts tell Inside Higher Ed that the rise in first-year student enrollment may be a result of the reduction in online course offerings, leading more students to opt for a traditional college experience. More targeted college recruitment techniques adopted since the pandemic may also explain the increase in first-year students.
Although first-year enrollment has grown, graduate enrollment fell 1.2% after two years of consecutive growth, and overall postsecondary enrollment is down 1.23 million undergraduates and 1.11 million total students compared to pre-pandemic Fall 2019 numbers.