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Enrollment Falls 1.7 Percent from Last Fall, Older Students Still Driving Decline

HERNDON, VA, DEC. 16, 2015 – Fall postsecondary enrollments continue to decline, according to the just-released Fall Current Term Enrollment Estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™. College enrollments in fall 2015 totaled just under 19.3 million, down 1.7 percent compared to fall 2014. As in each of the last three years, the bulk of this fall’s decline is among students over the age of 24, whose numbers fell by 308,000 (-4.3 percent). Additional report findings include:

Most of this fall’s decline took place at two-year public institutions (-2.4 percent) and four-year for-profit institutions (-13.7 percent).
Students over the age of 24 represented 36 percent of the total fall 2015 enrollments but accounted for 91 percent of the decline from fall 2014.
Two-year public institutions lost 145,000 enrollments this year, down 423,000 from fall 2013. Students over the age of 24 accounted for 89 percent of this decline.
This fall’s report provides, for the first time, separate counts for undergraduate and graduate students. The former made up 86 percent of total enrollments in fall 2015.
Enrollments at four-year public institutions grew slightly (0.4 percent).

Enrollments at private nonprofit institutions showed a slight decline from fall 2014 (-0.3 percent), led by a 3.1 percent drop in part-time enrollments within that sector.
Part-time enrollment declined at a slightly higher rate than full-time enrollment (-2.1 percent compared to -1.5 percent).
Enrollment of women declined at a slightly higher rate than men (-2.0 percent compared to -1.4 percent).
Enrollments declined in 37 states and increased in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

“This fall’s numbers show ongoing challenges for colleges and universities,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The bright spots are traditional-age students at four-year public institutions and full-time students at four-year public and private non-profits, which each edged up by roughly half a percent. But overall, traditional-age students are continuing their slow declines and adult students are still leaving higher education in large numbers, particularly for-profit institutions and community colleges.”

Published every May and December, Current Term Enrollment Estimates are based on postsecondary institutions actively submitting data to the Clearinghouse. These institutions account for over 96 percent of the nation’s Title IV, degree-granting enrollments. The data are highly current since institutions make several data submissions per term. In addition, since the Clearinghouse receives data at the student level, an unduplicated headcount is reported, avoiding double-counting of students enrolled in more than one institution.

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.