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College enrollment not bouncing back after pandemic, data shows

Two-year colleges seem to be most impacted by the drop in new enrollees.
College enrollment not bouncing back after pandemic, data shows
Posted at 2:17 PM, Apr 26, 2023

College enrollment tumbled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are minimal signs of a comeback. 

According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday, 62% of 2022 high school graduates enrolled in college or university courses in the fall. College enrollment among recent grads was only up by .2 percentage points from the year before, the BLS said. 

In 2019, 66.2% of that year’s graduates went to college that fall. In 2018, 69.1% of high school grads went to college that fall. 

With nearly 3 million Americans graduating high school every year, a 7% drop in college registration would decrease signups by over 200,000 a year. 

The survey found that 69.2% of 2022 high school graduates not enrolled in college were in the workforce, up from 66.9% a year prior. Prior to the pandemic, 72% of 2019 high school grads were in the workforce by October of that year.

The impact seems to be mostly felt at the community college level. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, enrollment at four-year public universities has declined by about 2% in the last two years. Enrollment at four-year private universities is down about 1%, the data found. 

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But between the falls of 2019 and 2022, there has been a 17% drop in enrollment at public two-year colleges. Those declines are even steeper when dating back to 2017. The National Student Clearinghouse reported a 25% drop in two-year public college enrollment between 2017 and 2022.

The new federal data also indicated that employment among 20-29-year-olds with a bachelors degree has largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels at 76.4%. Among 20-29-year-olds with an associates degree, 72.6% were employed. 

Workforce participation among high schoolers ages 16-24 has increased from 22.3% before the pandemic to 25.1% in October 2022. 

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