How the pandemic is affecting college enrollment of new high school grads

Higher Ed Dive

Hallie Busta
June 3, 2021
Dive Brief:
  • The higher education sector lost enrollment during the pandemic, but a new analysis based on data from nearly 10 million recent high school graduates provides a more detailed look at who was missing from campuses this year.
  • Using its own data and that from the National Student Clearinghouse, the College Board found that community colleges generally lost would-be incoming students who are lower-income and lower-achieving, and those from underrepresented groups. Four-year institutions lost higher-achieving students from wealthier high schools.
  • Four-year colleges had more success retaining students than did community colleges during the pandemic, though the focus solely on recent high school graduates offers a more limited view into trends, particularly at public two-year schools.
Dive Insight:
The researchers primarily examined enrollment data for spring 2020 high school graduates and persistence and retention data for spring 2019 graduates.
At public two-year colleges, enrollment decreased the most among first-generation students, those from underrepresented groups and lower-achieving students from high-poverty high schools, according to the analysis.
Four-year schools, meanwhile, reported some of the biggest enrollment declines among White and Asian students, along with those whose parents attended college and high-achieving students from affluent high schools.