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Undergraduate Enrollments Down 300,000 for Spring 2017

May 24, 2017 | Media Center, Press Releases, Research News

Declines Led by Adult Learners Enrolled in Four-Year, For-Profit Institution or a Two-Year Public College

HERNDON, VA (May 24, 2017) Spring postsecondary overall enrollments fell by more than 272,000 students compared to a year ago, led by a decline of more than 244,000 students over the age of 24 and many were enrolled in a four-year, for-profit institution or a two-year public college, according to the Spring 2017 Current Term Enrollment Estimates report from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™, the nation’s most trusted source for student record data. Enrollments declined in 39 states and increased in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

A total of 18,071,004 student enrollments occurred in all institutions this spring, but 1.8 percent of those were the same students attending more than one institution at the same time. Unduplicated, the Research Center counted 17,740,912 unique students.

“Institutions that cannot attract graduate students to compensate for declining numbers of undergraduates will continue to struggle in the coming years,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The spring 2017 numbers reinforce the trends that we saw in the fall term, and will likely continue: enrollments at community colleges and smaller non-profits declining, while four-year public colleges and larger privates hold steady.”

The report features nationwide enrollment figures and trends for each state, as well as enrollment totals by undergraduate field of study at four-year and two-year institutions.

Additional data compared to Spring 2016:

  • 111,000 fewer students (10.1 percent) enrolled in four-year, for-profit institutions, with men experiencing the largest declines in this sector. Women now account for 66 percent of enrollments in the for-profit sector, compared to 64 percent in spring 2015.
  • 138,000 fewer students (2.5 percent) enrolled in two-year public colleges.
  • 7,300 fewer students (0.2 percent) enrolled in four-year private non-profit institutions, with smaller institutions (those enrolling less than 10,000 students) falling by 19,300. Larger institutions only partly compensated, increasing by 12,000.
  • Graduate/professional students increased by 27,000 (1.1 percent).
  • Undergraduate students decreased by 300,000 (1.9 percent).
  • Engineering majors at four-year institutions increased 3.1 percent.

The 10 states with the largest decreases in enrollment:

Michigan            19,774                 Pennsylvania    12,665

New York           19,306                 Wisconsin          10,044

California           18,124                 Massachusetts    8,234

Illinois                 18,063                 Oregon                8,187

Missouri             12,826                 Minnesota            7,705

The 5 states with the largest increases in enrollment:

Texas                                  23,892

New Hampshire                  20,410

Utah                                    16,829

Arizona                               11,221

Washington                          5,751

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

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support            1,593,921           -1.0%

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities        1,107,539           +6.9%

Health Professions and Related Programs                                     1,095,661          -0.8%

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                                   570,451         +1.8%

Engineering                                                                                        567,200          +3.1%

The 5 undergraduate majors with largest percentage increase in enrollments at four-year institutions:

Construction Trades                                                                                                 26.4%

Science Technologies/Technicians                                                                          16.2%

Liberal Arts and Science, General Studies and Humanities                                       6.9%

Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services                           4.9%

Precision Production                                                                                                  4.5%

The 5 undergraduate majors with largest percentage decrease in enrollments at four-year institutions:

Engineering Technologies and Engineering-Related Fields                                   -14.6%

Legal Professions and Studies                                                                                 -7.9%

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics                                                      -6.7%

Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences                                                   -6.2%

Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians                                                     -6.0%

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

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                                                          1,949,165           -2.1%

Health Professions and Related Programs                                                                                       775,479             -2.1%

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support                                                                574,864             -2.4%

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services                                                              201,377             +3.9%

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services                     197,826              -9.0%

The 5 undergraduate majors with largest percentage increase in enrollments at two-year institutions:

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                     8.5%

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics                  6.4%

Psychology                                                                            5.9%

History                                                                                   5.5%

Basic Skills and Developmental/Remedial Education          5.4%

The 5 undergraduate majors with largest percentage decrease in enrollments at two-year institutions:

Transportation and Materials Moving                                                                                             -16.0%

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Service                       -9.0%

Public Administration and Social Service Professions                                                                     -8.9%

Legal Professions and Studies                                                                                                         -7.9%

Construction Trades                                                                                                                         -7.5%

Fields of study based on two-digit CIP Family 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 nearly 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