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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Undergraduate Enrollments Down 310,000 for Fall 2016; Graduate and Professional Enrollments Up 40,000

NY, Illinois, and Michigan Lead Enrollment Declines; New Hampshire, Utah and Florida See Greatest Increases

HERNDON, VA (Dec. 19, 2016) Fall postsecondary overall enrollments fell by more than 270,000 students, which mostly consisted of more than 256,000 students over the age of 24, according to the Fall 2016 Current Term Enrollment Estimates report from the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™, the nation’s most trusted source for student record data. Even though enrollments declined in 39 states and increased in 12 states and the District of Columbia, there are 19,010,459 students enrolled in all institutions.

“The trends of a declining adult student enrollment and the shrinking for-profit sector, are now joined by stagnating numbers of new high school graduates. These forces show no sign of slowing and will continue to challenge institutions in their planning,” stated Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The greatest decreases in enrollment are happening in the Northeast and Midwest, while the West and South are seeing increases.”

The report features nationwide enrollment figures and trends for each state. For the first time, the report includes enrollment totals by undergraduate field of study at four-year and two-year institutions. For example, engineering studies are thriving but legal education is encountering some of the largest decreases in enrollment.

Additional data compared to Fall 2015:

  • Nearly 165,000 fewer students (14.5 percent) enrolled in four-year, for-profit institutions, with men experiencing the largest declines in this sector.
  • More than 153,000 fewer students (2.6 percent) enrolled in two-year public colleges
  • More than 22,000 fewer students (0.6 percent) enrolled in four-year, private non-profit campuses, with smaller institutions (those enrolling less than 3,000 students) accounting for more than half of the decrease
  • Graduate/professional students overall increased by 40,000 (1.5 percent) and among four-year public institutions, graduate/professional enrollments increased 2.7 percent
  • Women now account for 66 percent of enrollments in the for-profit sector, compared to 64 percent in fall 2014
  • Engineering majors at 4-year institutions were up 4.0 percent over fall 2015

The top 10 states with the largest decreases in enrollment:

New York            30,695                  Massachusetts   13,444

Illinois                  26,089                  Wisconsin           13,122

Michigan             25,841                  Texas                   11,376

Pennsylvania       18,390                  Colorado             11,039

Virginia                15,613                  Maryland             10,444

The top 5 states with the largest increases in enrollment:

New Hampshire                21,413

Utah                                  20,498

Florida                              16,989

Georgia                             10,607

Arizona                               5,655

The top 5 undergraduate fields of study by enrollment at four-year institutions:

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support                     1,639,373

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                 1,289,296

Health Professions and Related Programs                                             1,142,636

Biological and Biomedical Sciences                                                           601,572

Engineering                                                                                                 601,119

Top 5 undergraduate fields of study based on percentage increase at four-year institutions:

Science Technologies/Technicians                                                          15.9%

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                     4.7%

Architecture and Related Services                                                             4.1%

Engineering                                                                                                4.0%

Natural Resources and Conservation                                                         2.5%

Top 5 undergraduate fields of study losing enrollment based on percentage at four-year institutions:

Personal and Culinary Services                                                                           -17.8%

Engineering Technologies and Engineering-Related Fields                                -14.5%

Legal Professions and Studies                                                                            -10.9%

Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians                                                  -8.4%

Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services                      -8.2%

The top 5 fields of study by enrollment at two-year institutions:

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities                                              2,015,473

Health Professions and Related Programs                                                                              827,811

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support                                                       608,435

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services             211,803

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services                                                     208,500

Top 5 fields of study based on percentage increase at two-year institutions:

History                                                         9.6%

Architecture and Related Services              9.4%

Mathematics and Statistics                          8.3%

Psychology                                                  8.2%

Biological and Biomedical Sciences            8.0%

Top 5 fields of study losing enrollment based on percentage at two-year institutions:

Transportation and Materials Moving                                                                                                 -14.8%

Legal Professions and Studies                                                                                                             -8.7%

Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services                        -7.6%

Public Administration and Social Service Professions                                                                         -5.6%

Engineering Technologies and Engineering-Related Fields                                                                -5.3%

The fields of study names are defined by 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 more than 96 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