NAICU Washington Update

Enrollment at Independent Institutions Grew in 2011, Bucking National Trend

October 16, 2012

Enrollment at private nonprofit colleges and universities increased 1.9 percent last year (from 3.88 million in 2010 to 3.95 million in 2011), while total postsecondary enrollment in the United States declined slightly for the first time in 15 years, by 0.2 percent (from 21.59 million to 21.54 million), according to new preliminary data released this month by the U.S. Department of Education. The number of students attending public institutions dipped 0.3 percent, while enrollment at for-profit colleges dropped 2.9 percent.

At four-year private nonprofit colleges and universities, enrollment grew 1.7 percent in 2011. At the same time, four-year enrollment grew 1.5 percent at public universities, while dropping 1.9 percent at for-profit institutions.

“During the worst of the recession, no one would have predicted that within a few years, enrollment at private colleges would not only be increasing, but growing at the fastest rate of any sector,” said NAICU President David Warren.

“The data speak volumes about the resiliency of private colleges, and their deep commitment to providing access and affordability,” Warren said. “Efforts by independent institutions to slow tuition increases, boost student aid, and lower students’ actual out-of-pocket costs are helping to make a difference.”

Adjusted for inflation, net tuition (published tuition minus grant aid from all sources and federal higher education tax benefits) at private nonprofit colleges actually dropped by 4.1 percent from 2006-07 to 2011-12, according to the College Board.

Since the economic downturn, private nonprofit colleges have undertaken cost cutting measures and slowed tuition increases, while still increasing student aid and protecting academic quality. NAICU reported this month that published tuition and fees at private nonprofit colleges and universities increased 3.9 percent in 2012-13 – the smallest rate in at least 40 years.

“There is no question that these continue to be challenging times for not only students and families, but institutions of higher education,” said Warren. “The nation’s economic ‘new normal’ means that all colleges and universities will continue to do more with less, as budgets remain tight.”

“Despite these challenges, private colleges will continue to work hard to provide a world-class education at the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost to students and parents,” Warren said.

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Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2011; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2003-2008: First Look (Preliminary Data)”; “Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002–07: First Look

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