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The number of people employed by colleges and universities has rebounded from the low-water mark of the pandemic and the ensuing recession, though it has not recovered to the point seen before 2020.

And the gains have come despite the fact that community college workforces have continued to shrink, dropping by more than 4 percent over all since 2020 and by nearly 6 percent among instructors.

Data from the Education Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, published last week, show that institutions eligible to distribute federal financial aid funds employed 3,935,708 administrators, faculty and staff members in fall 2022, up 1.7 percent from 3,868,066 in fall 2020, during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase was driven mostly by growth at four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. The number of employees grew by 3.3 percent at four-year private institutions, to 1.225 million in 2022 from 1.186 million in 2020, and by 2.5 percent at public four-year institutions, to 2.07 million from 2.02 million.

The employee base at four-year institutions rebounded faster than enrollments did, as undergraduate enrollment declines persisted through fall 2022 at four-year public and private institutions, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Enrollments finally bounced back at those institutions last fall.

Employment at two-year public colleges and at for-profit institutions, meanwhile, has continued to shrink even as their enrollments have partially recovered. Community colleges saw their employee bases shrink by 4.35 percent from 2020 to 2022, to 475,783 from 497,423. The number of faculty members dropped even more, by 5.76 percent. (One caveat about the community college statistics: some of the declines over time in enrollment and other data about two-year institutions reflect the fact that significant numbers of community colleges have begun offering four-year degrees, and they may be counted among four-year institutions instead of their two-year peers.)

The collective workforce at for-profit colleges contracted by 1.76 percent from 2020 to 2022, again with faculty bearing the brunt of the decline, dropping by 2.28 percent.

If the number of college and university employees has rebounded from its pandemic low, it still sits well below its pre-pandemic peak. Colleges that award federal financial aid employed 4,018,877 people in 2019–20, about 2 percent more than they employed in 2022.

The number of employees at two-year public institutions fell by more than 15 percent from 2019 to 2022, and the number of instructional employees dropped by more than 16 percent.

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