Masked students walk on the Saint Louis University campus August 19, 2020. A study found that college enrollments were down by 3.8% in fall 2021. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Fall semester college enrollment dropped for a second year in a row thanks to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the steepest declines coming at public, four-year institutions and private, for-profit four-year colleges, a report released Thursday indicates.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said undergraduate enrollment fell 3.1% in fall 2021, about 465,300 students, compared with fall 2020.
The largest numerical drop came at public, four-year schools, with a decline of 251,400 students, or 3.8%. The steepest decline percentage-wise came at private, for-profit four-year schools, which dropped 11.1% or by 65,500 students over the previous year.
The smallest dip by percent was at community colleges, which fell by 3.4%, or 161,800 students.
Meanwhile, freshman enrollment leveled out a bit compared to fall 2020, with a drop of about 0.4%, or 8,100 students. The NSCRC said the relatively small drop was fueled by freshman increases at private, non-profit four-year colleges.
Though that's a slight improvement over the drop seen in fall 2020, there was still an overall decline of 9.2%, or 213,400, compared to pre-pandemic enrollment in fall 2019.
Mikyung Ryu, an analyst and director of research publications at the NSCRC, said it could be a while before college enrollments rebound from the pandemic.
"Thing about the virus infection status right now -- things are not really looking up," Ryu told Inside Higher Ed. "Campus leadership is struggling to retain students, let alone fill the empty seats from the pre-pandemic years.