Multiple Sources

Pandemic, Demographics Cut into College and University Enrollment This Fall

October 16, 2020

Pandemic, Demographics Cut into College and University Enrollment This Fall
Three new studies of fall enrollment at America’s colleges and universities announced this week, illustrated the impact the COVID 19 pandemic is having on campuses across the country. 
A NAICU study of 292 private, nonprofit colleges and universities revealed the sector experienced a 2 percent drop in total enrollment between the fall of 2019 and 2020, including a nearly 8 percent decrease among students who receive federal Pell Grant awards. Further, 43 percent of private, nonprofit colleges and universities reported either no change or an increase in their 2020 fall enrollment compared to last year, while 57% reported a decrease in fall enrollment.
A National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study found freshman enrollment is down nationwide by 16.1 percent. The data also show a continuation of downward trends in undergraduate enrollment and among various demographic groups that the research organization reported last month. The Clearinghouse also found the population of first-time community-college students dropped 22.7 percent from a year ago. The latest report reflects data on 9.2 million students at 54 percent of the postsecondary institutions reporting to the research center, and is current as of September 24.
Two-thirds of enrollment managers and registrars responding to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported drops in undergraduate enrollment this fall, with community colleges experiencing the steepest declines during a semester of pandemic-fueled challenges. The survey of provides a look at enrollment shifts and spring-planning decisions at institutions representing a broad cross-section of Carnegie classes.  The survey results reinforce some of the top-level findings of recent studies by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and the American Council on Education: Declining enrollment, increased operating costs, and state budget cuts are inflicting deep financial pain on nearly every sector of higher education.
In addition, a survey of college presidents by the American Council on Education found Spring 2021 enrollment among the top five most pressing issues.  In presidents identified their top issues as: mental health: students; long-term financial viability, mental health: faculty and staff; enrollment numbers for the spring; and sustain online learning.  Fundraising and safety protocols related to COVID-19 also were major concerns.
Below is media coverage and access to the full reports for each of the surveys.
Survey of Private, Nonprofit Colleges and Universities Shows 2 Percent Drop in Total Fall Enrollment
NAICU (October 15, 2020)
Pell Recipient Enrollment Down at Privates, Survey Says
Inside Higher Ed (October 16, 2020)
National Student Clearinghouse
Fall 2020 Undergraduate Enrollment Down 4% Compared to Same Time Last Year
National Student Clearinghouse (October 15, 2020)
College Enrollment Slid This Fall, With First-Year Populations Down 16%
The Wall Street Journal (October 16, 2020)
Freshman Enrollment Drops Significantly at U.S. Universities and Community Colleges
The New York Times (October 15, 2020)
College Enrollment Down by 5.7 Percent in Midwest According to National Data
Wisconsin Public Radio (October 16, 2020)

College Enrollment Update: Undergraduate Numbers Now Down 4% Nationwide (October 16, 2020)
The Chronicle of Higher Education / Ad Astra / College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College
‘We Haven’t Begun to Feel the Real Economic Damage’
The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 15, 2020)
American Council on Education
College and University Presidents Respond to Covid-19: 2020 Fall Term Survey
American Council on Education (October 8, 2020)
As the Pandemic Grinds On, Here Are 5 Big Worries of College Presidents
The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 12, 2020)
Other Enrollment News
Covid-19 Pandemic Continues Enrollment Slide at Many WNY Colleges
The Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY (October 16, 2020)

San Antonio’s Private Universities Say Enrollment Losses Could Have Been Worse
Express-News, San Antonio, TX (October 16, 2020)

MORE News from NAICU