How “Grows” Enrollment?

So, how “grows” enrollment for 2024? Well, finding that data this early on was not so easy. However, the National Student Clearing House released their fall 2023 enrollment report at the end of October lets us see where everyone landed. Also, insights from the Common App data of 2024 thus far can help us plan a path forward. 

First, let’s delve into the highlights from the National Student Clearing House fall 2023 report: 

Undergraduate Enrollment Rises: This fall marked a significant milestone as undergraduate enrollment saw a positive uptick, growing by 2.1%. Notably, community colleges are on the path to recovery, exhibiting a growth of 4.4% this fall, and an impressive 4.3% increase since fall 2021. 

Freshman Enrollment Fluctuates: Freshman enrollment, on the other hand, experienced a dip of 3.6%, countering the gains of fall 2022 (+4.6%), and now stands just 0.8% above the fall 2021 figures. 

Preference for Shorter-Term Credentials: The preference for shorter-term credentials continues with undergraduate certificate programs witnessing a substantial 9.9% increase. In contrast, associate degrees grew by 3.6%, while bachelor’s degrees only saw a marginal 0.9% growth. 

Diversity in Enrollment: A notable aspect is the diverse enrollment pattern, with Black, Latinx, and Asian students contributing significantly to both undergraduate and graduate enrollment growth. In contrast, the enrollment of White students continued to decline, particularly among freshmen. 

Wide Age Spectrum Growth: Undergraduates exhibited growth across a wide age spectrum, with students aged 18-20 and those aged 30 or older each experiencing a roughly 3% increase. Dual-enrolled high school students (under 18) continued to outpace all undergraduates with an impressive 8.8% jump. 

Income-Level Diversity: Among traditional-aged undergraduate students, enrollment increased across all neighborhood income levels. Students from the lowest income areas gained 3.6%, while those from the highest income areas saw a 1.4% increase this year. 

Now, turning our attention to the future, The Common App provides valuable insights: 

Private Institution Applications: Applications to private institutions in various regions have declined compared to the previous year, with the exception of small and midsize private schools in the South. 

Public Institutions: On the flip side, applications to large public institutions (enrollments of 20,000 or more students) have increased across the board. 

International Applicants: The numbers for international applicants remain relatively stable, with a minimal decrease of less than one percent. Notable changes have occurred in applicants from traditionally high-volume countries. 

While the rise in undergraduate enrollment is cause for optimism, it’s important to acknowledge potential challenges. Inside Higher Ed suggests that there might be factors that temper our optimism. Doug Shapiro, the NSC’s executive research director, points out that the data doesn’t definitively lean one way or the other. It presents two distinct possibilities: the best-case scenario is that it reflects the lingering influence of the pandemic on high school graduates’ college choices, while the worst-case scenario is that a full recovery may still be further down the road. 

What is actionable right now? Let’s focus on the positive! If you’re seeing an increase, let’s build those relationships with our applicants. Your daily visitor report serves as an awesome tool to highlight which students in your territory are visiting your website, and what they’re up to. Additionally, CES tells you how much momentum they’re taking now, while CAI speaks to how “sticky” they are to your school overall. Use your tools and let’s channel this early app enthusiasm and guide these students to our educational institutions! 

By Cat Hollands, Capture Client Trainer, Capture Higher Ed