Undergraduate College Enrollment Drops 4.9% for Latest Semester

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Undergraduate enrollment at U.S. colleges declined 4.9% for the spring semester as many students opted to wait out the pandemic.

California led the nation in enrollment loss by total headcount with a decrease of almost 123,000 students, according to data released Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The data confirms the severe impact of Covid-19 on students and colleges, said Doug Shapiro, the group’s executive director. How long it lasts “will depend on how many of the missing students, particularly at community colleges, will be able to make their way back to school for the coming fall,” he said.

Undergraduate College Enrollment Drops 4.9% for Latest Semester

Now that Covid-19 vaccines are widely available, colleges are counting on students to return in the fall, as declining enrollment means less money from tuition, dorms, dining halls and sports. There are some promising signs of increased demand for the in-person experience, including fully booked campus tours.

Total spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million students from 17.5 million during the same semester in 2020, mitigated by a 4.6% increase in the number of graduate students, according to the center’s latest data.

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