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. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.