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Enrollments Continue to Slide at For-Profits and Community Colleges

May 24, 2017

National college enrollments have continued their multiyear decline, with most of the dip occurring among older undergraduates at for-profit institutions and community colleges.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks 97 percent of students at federal aid-eligible institutions, found an overall national decline of 1.5 percent for this spring semester compared to a year ago. (Last year's decline was 1.3 percent.) That means 272,000 fewer students were enrolled, with 244,000 fewer over the age of 24. Undergraduate enrollments were down by roughly 300,000 students, the center found, with graduate and professional student enrollments up by 27,000.

For-profit colleges were hit the hardest, with a 10.1 percent decline, following a dip of 9.3 percent last year. The center found a drop of 2.5 percent at community colleges, which was slightly less than the 2.8 percent decline last year. Enrollments were largely flat at four-year public institutions (up 0.2 percent) and four-year private institutions (down 0.2 percent).

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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