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New Federal Data Also Show Enrollment Declines

May 24, 2018
 
 

Undergraduate enrollment in the United States, widely measured as decreasing for the last six straight years, fell by more than half a percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016, according to newly released data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The new federal data report shows that the total number of students enrolled in college nationally declined from 17 million to 16.9 million during that same period.

The percentage decline was nearly twice as much during the following academic year (meaning total enrollment during the year as compared to just the fall), falling from 20.0 million from 2015-2016 to 19.8 million from 2016-2017.

The figures were among the highlights of The Condition of Education 2018, a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing the latest statistical information on education in the United States.

The number of degree-granting institutions that enrolled first-year undergraduates also fell along with the number of students, according to the report. There were 4,147 such institutions during 2015-2016 but the number dropped to 3,895 during 2016-2017.

The report, which is used by policy makers and others to monitor educational progress, noted slight upticks in undergraduate retention and graduation rates. The retention rate for first-time undergraduates at four-year institutions was 80.8 percent in 2015-2016 compared to 80.7 percent in 2014-2015. (At two year institutions the rate was 62.3 percent in 2015-2016 compared to 61.3 percent in 2014-2015.)  

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