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U.S. College Enrollments Continue to Slide

DECEMBER 19, 2016

According to data released from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, overall college enrollments declined 1.4 percent for the fall of 2016 in comparison to one year ago.  This was a drop of more than 270,00 students in the overall higher education population.  Nationwide, enrollments began their slide in 2012 and have continued for the last ten consecutive college terms.  The biggest drop this fall was in the for-profit sector, which saw a 14.5 percent decline.  Community colleges experienced a 2.6 percent drop.  Enrollments were down slightly (0.6 percent) at four-year private institutions and up a small amount (0.2 percent) at four-year public institutions.

"The trends of a declining adult student population 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," Doug Shaprio, executive research director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said in a written statement on December 16.  "The greatest decreases in enrollment are happening in the Northeast and Midwest, while the West and the South are seeing increases."

While I do not have solid data available with respect to colleges and universities that have a distinctively Christ-centered focus, commonly members of the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, my interactions with leaders at these institutions would lead me to conclude that the enrollment patterns at Christian institutions are quite similar to those of other four-year private institutions across the United States.  Simply put, it is Enrollment!  Enrollment!  Enrollment!

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant

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