Masked students sit in a cafe on the Saint Louis University campus in St. Louis on August 19, 2020. An analysis of college enrollment data showed a marked decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Undergraduate college enrollment fell 6.5% this year compared to fall 2019, the largest two-year decline in half a century, according to an analysis released Tuesday.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said undergraduate enrollment fell 3.2% in fall 2021 compared to a year prior and enrollment fell 3.4% in fall 2020 compared to a year prior.
The largest overall drop in enrollment over the past year was among private, for-profit four-year colleges at 12.7%. Over the past two years, though, the largest drop was among public two-year colleges, which saw a 14.1% decline.
The smallest dip over the past year was among private, non-profit four-year colleges at 0.7%. Over the past two years, the decline was 1.2%.
"Enrollments are not getting better; they're still getting worse," the center's executive director, Doug Shapiro, told CNBC. "Far from filling the hole of last year's enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper."
The drop in enrollment of men and women this year compared to last year is relatively even, with a 3.5% drop for men and 3.6% drop for women. But the first year of post-pandemic enrollment -- 2020 -- fell more sharply for men (6%) than women (1.8%).
Only the most selective public and private non-profit schools showed an overall increase in undergraduate enrollment throughout the pandemic, with a 2.1% increase over last year and a 1.4% increase over 2019. The least selective schools saw a 4.7% decrease over last year and a 6.9% decrease over 2019.
"These data are depressing, but they also show that the effects of the pandemic on higher education are far from over," Robert Kelchen, professor of higher education at the University of Tennessee, told Yahoo Finance.