User Login | FTP Login | Privacy
Careers | Self-Help | Contact Us

Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Undergraduate Enrollments Down 275,000 in Spring 2018

Undergraduate Enrollments Down 275,000 in Spring 2018

May 22, 2018 | Media Center, Press Releases, Research News

57,000 Fewer Students Entered College Compared to Previous Spring

6 of 10 States Seeing Largest Enrollment Declines Are in the Midwest or Northeast

HERNDON, VA (May 22, 2018) Undergraduate enrollments fell by over 275,000 students, a decline of 1.8 percent, to 15.3 million, Spring 2018 Current Term Enrollment Estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™. Enrollments in graduate and professional programs increased by nearly 44,000, but these gains were outweighed by the decrease in undergraduate enrollments. Total postsecondary enrollments are now at 17.8 million, a decline of 1.3 percent compared to spring term 2017.

Additionally, the report shows the number of students who started college in the spring term. There were 755,000 students who began their college career between January and May of 2018, a decline of 57,000, or 7.1 percent, compared to spring 2017. The decline in new student enrollments included more than 22,000 fewer over the age of 24 and nearly 35,000 fewer in the 18-to-24 age group. When combined with those who started in the fall, this brings the total number of first-timers to 3.4 million for the academic year, down from 3.5 million in 2016-17.

“Institutions are doing a better job of holding onto their traditional age students, but continue to lose ground on enrolling older adults,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The part-time associates and certificate programs that were so attractive to adult students, particularly the unemployed, a decade ago, are showing all the effects of the recovering economy drawing those students back into the workforce today.”

Additional data compared to spring 2017:

  • The number of students over 24 years of age declined by 263,000. Enrollments for the over 24 age group have now fallen by more than 1.5 million since spring 2011.
  • The number of traditional-age students (18-24) increased slightly (0.4%), but remains below the spring 2016 level.
  • The decline in undergraduate enrollments (-1.8 percent) occurred entirely in sub-baccalaureate programs (-3.4 percent for associate degree seekers, -9.3 percent for certificate and other non-degree programs), outweighing a 1.1 percent increase in bachelor’s degree seekers.
  • Enrollments declined in 34 states and increased in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Six of the 10 states seeing the largest enrollment declines are in the Midwest or Northeast.
  • Nearly 68,000 fewer students (-6.8 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 64 percent in spring 2016.
  • More than 107,000 fewer students (-2.0 percent) enrolled in two-year public colleges.
  • More than 16,000 fewer students (-0.4 percent) enrolled in four-year private, nonprofit institutions.
  • Part-time enrollments declined by 213,000 (-3.0 percent), while full-time enrollments decreased by nearly 19,000 (-0.2 percent).

The top 10 states with the largest decreases in enrollment:

New York           45,608                 Ohio                     9,623

Michigan            22,571                 Pennsylvania       9,596

Florida               17,003                 Colorado              9,049

Minnesota          11,262                West Virginia        8,755

Missouri               9,962                 Oregon                7,255

The top 5 states with the largest increases in enrollment:

Utah                   19,974

Georgia              10,583

Arizona                5,566

Indiana                5,139

California             4,234

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

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support            1,575,286

Health Professions and Related Programs                                   1,074,613

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities       1,058,766

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                                 579,302

Engineering                                                                                       568,243

Top 5 undergraduate majors gaining enrollment at four-year institutions (by percentage increase):

Transportation and Materials Moving                                                6.9%

Construction Trades                                                                          6.6%

Science Technologies/Technicians                                                   6.5%

Architecture and Related Services                                                    4.9%

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services             3.7%

Top 5 undergraduate majors losing enrollment at four-year institutions (by percentage decrease):

Personal and Culinary Services                                                      -18.8%

Philosophy and Religious Studies                                                     -4.9%

Public Administration and Social Service Professions                   -4.7%

English Language and Literature/Letters                                          -4.7%

Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences                           -4.6%

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

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                                               1,900,584

Health Professions and Related Programs                                                                              766,962

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support                                                       564,851

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services                                                     207,894

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services            191,254

Top 5 undergraduate majors gaining enrollment at two-year institutions (by percentage increase):

Science Technologies/Technicians                                              30.0%

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                            16.3%

History                                                                                           7.6%

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics                          5.2%

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services         4.1%

Top 5 undergraduate majors losing enrollment at two-year institutions (by percentage increase):

Public Administration and Social Service Professions                                                              -7.2%

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services              -7.2%

Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences                                                                   -7.1%

Transportation and Materials Moving                                                                                        -7.1%

Architecture and Related Services                                                                                           -5.6%

The information about majors increasing or decreasing enrollment is based on data 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