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Fall higher education enrollment rises for 1st time since pandemic

Jan. 24, 2024
Overall enrollment rose 1.1% and undergraduate enrollment increased 1.2% in fall 2023 compared with the previous year.

Undergraduate college enrollment in the United States grew 1.2% in fall 2023, the first increase since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that 15,248,077 undergraduate students were enrolled in fall 2023, compared with 15,072,249 in fall 2022—an increase of 175,828 students. Overall higher education enrollment grew from 18,158,132 in fall 2022 to 18,350,951 in fall 2023. That’s an increase of 1.1%.

Despite the most recent increases, student numbers still fall short of pre-pandemic enrollment levels. Fall 2019 higher education enrollment was 19,113,803.

Among the largest higher education sectors, growth was highest at community colleges, which gained 118,000 students (+2.6%) after significant declines during the pandemic. That sector reported 4,566,605 students in fall 2023, still 654,000 fewer students than the 5,221,238 enrolled in fall 2019.

Thirty-six states saw higher education enrollment growth from fall 2022 to fall 2023, and 14 states and the District of Columbia reported enrollment declines, the center says. The largest percentage year-to-year increase was in 4.8% in Montana (from 44,809 to 46,939); the largest percentage decline from fall 2022 to fall 2023 was -3.3% in Louisiana (from 212,694 to 205,714).

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