Mike Kennedy New 2110

A blip, or a worrisome trend?

July 1, 2022

A year ago, looking ahead to the 2021-22 school year, I wrote about the understandable but still significant decline in higher education enrollment in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the choice of coping with heavy doses of remote instruction and the health and safety restrictions that reined in campus social activities, hundreds of thousands of young men and women opted to defer college plans, if not drop them altogether.

But the hope was that as vaccinations and enhanced safety measures enabled colleges and universities to resume something closer to normal operations, the enrollment drop could be categorized as a blip and more students would come back for the academic and social of the campus experience that had seemed so appealing before Covid-19 struck.

The most recent numbers say the decline may be more than a blip. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says that from spring 2021 to spring 2022, total enrollment (undergraduate and graduate) declined 44.1%—685,000 students. That’s on top of 3.5% enrollment drop from spring 2020 to spring 2021.

Undergraduates account for most of the enrollment drop of the last two years. The spring 2022 undergraduate enrollment of about 13.3 million was 9.4% less than the 14.7 million student numbers in spring 2020.

What started as taking a semester off until the pandemic subsides now may have become a gap year or longer. And the gap may grow into a chasm as the path those former students find themselves pulls them farther away college campuses.

Whether or not enrollment numbers eventually rebound, higher education institutions should be prepared to help students who may have experienced mental health problems as they endured the disruptions and trauma that stemmed from the Covid-19 outbreak. Students who have been away from higher education also may need help working through the anxieties that may arise as they re-enter campus life.

The U.S. Education Department is urging colleges and universities to allocate some of its Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds on evidence-based mental health supports for students.

“We must make sure our colleges and universities have the tools and resources to help students, faculty, and staff heal from the grief, trauma, and anxiety they endured amid the pandemic,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says.


Have an exceptional project that deserves recognition? American School & University is still accepting entries for Architectural Portfolio 2022. Judging has been scheduled for late August, and we have options for entrants facing project and photography delays.

Contact Joe Agron at [email protected] or visit SchoolDesigns.com for information about the competition and to reserve a spot for your project.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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