Undergrad Enrollment Increases For First Time Since Pandemic, Number Of Freshmen Decline

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Undergraduate enrollment numbers increased during the fall semester for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic while the number of freshmen enrolling in colleges and universities declined, according to the National Student Research Clearinghouse Center (NSRCC).

Undergraduate enrollment at colleges and universities increased 2.1% compared to 2022 and 1.2% compared to 2021, with community colleges accounting for nearly 59% of the increase, according to the NSRCC. Freshmen enrollment declined by 3.6%, with bachelor programs seeing a 6.9% and 4.7% decline, respectively, at public and private four-year nonprofit institutions.

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“It’s hard to know what’s really driving this divergence between freshmen and continuing students, but it’s certainly counterintuitive,” Douglas Shapiro, NSRCC executive director, said in a Wednesday media briefing, according to Axios.

Students moved towards shorter programs as enrollment in undergraduate certificate programs increased nearly 10%, compared to 3.6% for associate degrees and 0.9% for bachelor’s degrees, according to the NSRCC.

Enrollment amongst Black, Latino and Asian students increased 2.1%, 4.2% and 4.0% respectively, from fall 2022, according to the NSRCC. White student enrollment declined 0.9% at the undergraduate level.

U.S. adults’ confidence in higher education hit a record low with 36% of respondents saying they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust, according to a July Gallup poll.

The data consisted of institutions that reported their enrollment numbers as of Sep. 28, and it represented 9.6 million undergraduate and graduate students combined, according to the NSRCC.

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