Tuesday, September 03, 2013

College Enrollment Plunges

College enrollment fell by nearly half a million between 2011 and 2012, according to the Census Bureau, which described the decline as a "plunge." The 467,000 decline was only the second since 2000. (Between 2005 and 2006, college enrollment fell by 240,000.) The college enrollment figure includes two-year, four-year, and graduate schools. In 2012, the nation's colleges enrolled 19.9 million students compared with 20.4 million in 2011. Here are enrollment trends by type of school...
  • Two-year schools Student enrollment climbed by 125,000 at two-year schools between 2011 and 2012. The 5.8 million enrolled at two-year schools in 2012 was not far off the 2010 record high of 5.9 million.
  • Four-year schools Almost all the decline in college enrollment occurred at four-year schools. Enrollment fell by 580,000, from 10.9 to 10.3 million. Most of the drop occurred among full-time students at public schools, with the number falling by 377,000 (a 5 percent decline). The number of full-time students at private schools fell by 37,000 (a 2 percent decline).
  • Graduate schools Graduate school enrollment was fairly stable between 2011 and 2012, falling by just 13,000. This decline was less than the drop in the previous year. The 3.8 million enrolled in graduate school in 2012 was not far off the 2010 record high of 3.9 million.  
With the unemployment rate declining and jobs more plentiful, it is not surprising that college enrollment is shrinking. Millions of men and women enrolled in college in recent years to avoid the difficult job market. As the economy improved, the decline in college enrollment was predictable. What is surprising about the decline, however, is how disproportionately it has hit public four-year schools.

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