College enrollment fell for the spring 2021 semester to a level not seen for a decade due to the “severe impact” of coronavirus school closures, mandates, and lockdowns, national data showed.
The number of spring students dropped to 16.9 million from 17.5 million in 2020, a 3.5% dip, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The semester’s decline is “seven times worse” than 2020’s reduction in those seeking higher education, and researchers said it is the “largest decline in year-over-year percent change and student headcount since spring 2011.”
Between fall 2010 and spring 2011, college enrollment fell 4.4%. There were 19.6 million college students enrolled in the spring 2011 semester, according to data Student Clearinghouse provided to the Washington Examiner.
Undergraduate students accounted for all of the decreases, as 727,000 fewer students made their way to universities across the country, equating to a 4.9% drop. Community colleges have taken the brunt of the impact, with 476,000 opting not to attend in 2021, a 9.5% decrease.
“The final estimates for spring enrollment confirm the pandemic’s severe impact on students and colleges this year,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in a statement. “How long that impact 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.”
In contrast, graduate schools added 124,000 students and saw enrollment jump by 4.6%.
California had the nation’s highest amount of student losses as its institutions noted 122,752 fewer students were enrolled in spring 2021. New York observed a dip of 52,041 students, Michigan lost 29,189, Illinois lost 28,422, and Pennsylvania observed a loss of 22,738 pupils.
However, New Hampshire, Utah, West Virginia, Nebraska, Virginia, Idaho, and Maryland observed increases in total student enrollment.
Traditional students between age 18 and 24 declined 5% with a 524,000 loss, while nontraditional pupils 25 or older dropped by 75,000, or 1.2%.