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Undergraduate Enrollments Down 224,000 in Fall 2017

Dec 20, 2017 | Media Center, Press Releases, Research News

63,000 Fewer Students Entered College Compared to Previous Fall

HERNDON, VA (Dec. 20, 2017) Overall undergraduate enrollments fell by nearly 224,000 students this fall, according to the Fall 2017 Current Term Enrollment Estimates report from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center. Enrollments in graduate and professional programs increased by over 24,000, but these gains were outweighed by the decrease in undergraduate enrollments.

Additionally, the report now provides enrollment counts for students entering college for the first time. These new student enrollments declined compared to Fall 2016 by 63,000, including more than 38,000 fewer students over the age of 24 and nearly 25,000 fewer students in the 18 to 24 age group.

“The decline in total fall enrollments is now in its sixth straight year but, at just 1.0% for 2017, the pace has slowed to its smallest rate since the end of the recession,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “What’s new is that the decline in numbers of first-year students is accelerating, even among traditional-age students. This suggests further declines to come overall in the years ahead, which will continue to present planning challenges for institutions and policymakers seeking to adapt to new economic and demographic realities.”

Additional data compared to Fall 2016:

  • Students over 24 years of age saw the largest decline with 228,000 fewer enrollments. Enrollments for the over 24 age group have now fallen by more than 1.5 million since Fall 2010.
  • The decline in undergraduate enrollments (-1.4 percent) was concentrated in sub-baccalaureate programs (-2.3 percent for associate degree seekers, -10.7 percent for certificate and other non-degree programs), compared to a 1.5 percent increase in bachelor’s degree seekers.
  • Enrollments declined in 39 states and increased in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Seven of the 10 states seeing the largest enrollment declines are in the Midwest.
  • Nearly 69,000 fewer students (-7.1 percent) enrolled in four-year, for-profit institutions, with men experiencing the largest declines in this sector. Women now account for 67 percent of enrollments in the for-profit sector, compared to 63 percent in fall 2015.
  • More than 97,000 fewer students (-1.7 percent) enrolled in two-year public colleges.
  • Nearly 14,000 fewer students (-0.4 percent) enrolled in four-year, private non-profit campuses.
  • Part-time enrollments declined by 230,000 (-3.3 percent), while full-time enrollments increased by nearly 31,000 (0.3 percent).

The top 10 states with the largest decreases in enrollment:

New York           28,345                 Minnesota          12,650

Michigan            20,098                 Indiana               10,124

Illinois                 18,198                 Ohio                     6,979

Virginia               14,791                 Wisconsin            6,634

Missouri             14,005                 Arkansas              5,872

The top 5 states with the largest increases in enrollment:

Texas                                  34,447

Arizona                               15,138

Utah                                    12,703

California                            10,925

Georgia                                 3,969

The top 5 undergraduate majors by enrollment at four-year institutions:

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support            1,623,551

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities        1,248,881

Health Professions and Related Programs                                    1,124,546

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                                  615,946

Engineering                                                                                       608,515

Top 5 undergraduate majors based on percentage increase at four-year institutions:

Construction Trades                                                                         9.4%

Science Technologies/Technicians                                                  6.8%

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services             6.1%

Transportation and Materials Moving                                                5.9%

Architecture and Related Services                                                    5.2%

Top 5 undergraduate majors losing enrollment based on percentage at four-year institutions:

Personal and Culinary Services                                                       -21.4%

Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians                               -7.9%

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics                                 -5.2%

Precision Production                                                                            -3.9%

Philosophy and Religious Studies                                                        -3.6%

The top 5 majors by enrollment at two-year institutions:

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                                                     2,013,695

Health Professions and Related Programs                                                                                    809,450

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support                                                             593,707

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services                                                           216,613

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services                  206,050

Top 5 majors based on percentage increase at two-year institutions:

Science Technologies/Technicians                                               17.4%

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                              15.4%

History                                                                                            12.4%

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics                             5.4%

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services            3.9%

Top 5 majors losing enrollment based on percentage at two-year institutions:

Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences                           -6.6%

Personal and Culinary Services                                                        -5.8%

Legal Professions and Studies                                                          -5.6%

English Language and Literature/Letters                                           -4.6%

Public Administration and Social Service Professions                       -3.8%

Fields of study based on two-digit Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Published every May and December, Current Term Enrollment Estimates are based on postsecondary institutions actively submitting data to the Clearinghouse. These institutions account for 97 percent of the nation’s Title IV, degree-granting enrollments. The data are highly current, because institutions make several data submissions per term. In addition, because 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. To learn more, visit