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241,000 Fewer College Students over Age 24 Enrolled; Under Age 24 Enrollments Remain Steady

18.3 Million Students Enrolled in Spring 2016; Down 1.3 Percent from Last Spring

HERNDON, VA, May 23, 2016 – Spring postsecondary enrollments for students over the age of 24 fell by more than 241,000 while enrollments for the 24 and under age category declined by just 7,800, according to the Spring Current Term Enrollment Estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™.  More than 18.3 million students enrolled in spring 2016, down 1.3 percent compared to spring 2015. The Spring Current Term Enrollment Estimates also include state-level data showing a decline in 33 states and an increase in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

“The post-recession hangover continues to affect enrollments of adult learners,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “However, the desire to attend college remains strong among traditional-aged students, whose enrollments held steady in spite of concerns about student debt and an overall decline in the number of high school graduates in the nation.”

Additional report findings include:

  • Most of this spring’s decline took place at two-year public institutions (-2.8 percent) and four-year for-profit institutions (-9.3 percent).
  • Enrollments increased slightly at four-year public institutions (+0.6 percent) and four-year private nonprofit institutions (+0.7 percent).
  • Two-year public institutions lost more than 161,000 enrollments compared to spring 2015, with students over the age of 24 accounting for 79 percent of the decline. Older students now account for 37.4 percent of enrollments in this sector, compared to 39.8 percent in spring 2014.
  • Four-year, for-profit institutions shed nearly 113,000 enrollments compared to spring 2015. Although comprising just 18 percent of the enrollments in this sector, students in the 24 and under age group accounted for over a third of the decline this spring.
  • Percentage declines were almost equivalent for full-time and part-time enrollments.
  • Enrollment of women declined at a slightly higher rate than men (-1.4 percent compared to -1.2 percent).

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit http://research.studentclearinghouse.org.


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Current Term Enrollment Estimates - Fall 2017