College enrollments bounce back following the pandemic

The count of undergraduate students enrolled in colleges throughout the country is on the rise following years of declines due to the pandemic.

According to a report published on Wednesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment increased by approximately 176,000 students in fall 2023. This marks a spike of around 1.2% compared to the previous fall, which saw a decrease of roughly 20,000 students nationwide.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, about 15.2 million undergraduate students enrolled in college. Although this is an increase, the number still falls short of pre-pandemic levels, which hovered above 16 million.

Community colleges experienced the most significant growth, with an increase of 118,000 students this fall. Private, for-profit colleges also saw an uptick in enrollment, with approximately 20,000 more students.

Preliminary data on this year’s college enrollment trends were released by the National Student Clearinghouse in October. This was the first indication that undergraduate enrollment was beginning to rebound modestly after the pandemic caused many students to reconsider their college plans.

Enrollments in For-Profit Colleges Rise as Biden Aims for Stricter Oversight

Unlike public undergraduate schools, for-profit colleges emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic.

Enrollment in these programs has increased by about 70,000 since fall 2019. This fall, for-profit schools admitted approximately 617,000 undergraduate students and a quarter of a million graduate students, according to data from Tuesday.

Although this represents only a fraction of all college students, many graduates of for-profit schools have begun to question the value of their degrees as new research challenges the effectiveness of online-only programs.

This growth coincides with the Biden administration’s consideration of broader regulations on higher education institutions. Earlier this month, the Department of Education concluded a week of policy negotiations primarily focused on enhancing oversight of for-profit colleges, online schools, and college accreditors.

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