American higher education enrollment declines again. For the 6th year.

by VanessaVaile

Bryan Alexander

The number of people enrolled in American higher education declined in fall 2017.

That numbers has declined steadily for the past six years.

My readers, viewers, listeners, and clients know that I’ve been talking about this as a major trend for our time.  Weirdly, it’s not a popular topic across a good deal of higher ed, either because it’s too abstract or too depressing.  It has little public traction.  But presidents and boards know all about it.

The key thing here is that American higher ed enrollment grew steadily from around 1980 through circa 2012.  Contemporary colleges and universities have largely built themselves on that old trendline.  Which has now paused and receded.

Let’s look at it a little more closely.

The data comes from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.   Note that the decline occurred across all sectors of American post-secondary education:

Enrollments from fall 2014 to 2017.

For-profits, community colleges, state universities, private colleges

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