Community colleges hardest hit by pandemic enrollment declines | The Numbers Racket

Community colleges saw a 9.5 percent dropoff in enrollment over the previous year, totaling 476,000 fewer students. 

By: - September 13, 2021 6:30 am

Delaware County Community College (WikiMedia Commons

Postsecondary schools nationwide are still seeing significant declines in enrollment among undergraduate students because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Overall, postsecondary enrollment dropped by 3.5 percent or 603,000 students in the spring of 2021, according to a June report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Community Colleges: 

While all postsecondary schools have been affected by the drop in enrollment, the report found that community colleges were the hardest hit in the most recent findings. 

Community colleges saw a 9.5 percent drop-off in enrollment over the previous year, totaling 476,000 fewer students. 

Among community college programs: 

  • Students enrolled in associate degree programs declined by 10.9 percent.
  • Students enrolled in undergraduate certificate programs declined by 4.8 percent.

While undergraduate enrollment declined 4.9 percent, graduate enrollment grew 4.6 percent across all sectors

In the Keystone State:

In Pennsylvania, college enrollment fell by 3.8 percent statewide from spring 2021 to spring 2020. 

Following national trends, public, two-year degree enrollment saw the largest percent decrease over the previous year, declining by 16.7 percent from 2021 to 2020. 

In spring 2021, 81,132 students enrolled in a two-year program at a public institution, compared with 97,430 during the same time period in 2020. In 2019, 101,943 students enrolled in a two-year program at a public institution. 

Looking at four-year program enrollment – 215,636 students enrolled in a four-year program at a public institution in Spring 2021 compared with 228,413 in 2020 and 237,688 in 2019. 

At private, nonprofit schools, 217,036 enrolled in a four-year program in spring 2021 compared with 227,848 in 2020 and 239,858 in 2019. 

Age & Gender

Students ages 18-24 saw the largest decline in enrollment of any age group, falling by 5 percent or 524,000 students. The report attributes this decline to the steep drop in community college enrollment, which is a 13.2 percent decrease, for the 18-24 age group. 

The report also found that men faced steeper enrollment declines than women across all sectors – a drop of 400,000 male students and 203,000 female students, respectively. In the community college sector, male enrollment declined by 14.4 percent compared to 6 percent for female enrollment. 

In the public, four-year institution sector, female enrollment increased by 1 percent – 44,000 students – while male enrollment dropped by 2.7 percent or 90,000 students. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared. Follow her on Twitter: @Wordsby_CassieM.

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