National Student Clearinghouse Data Demonstrates Impact of COVID on Enrollment and Transfers

March 11, 2022

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Titles: Covid-19: Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information (November 18, 2021); Covid-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress (January 19, 2022)

Source: National Student Clearinghouse

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) has continued to provide an up-to-date snapshot of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted enrollment and transfer trends from fall 2019 through fall 2021. Although these data are inherently limited in their ability to establish causality as to how the pandemic has impacted enrollment and transfer rates, they are potentially helpful for enrollment managers and other education leaders to compare their own institutions’ data against trends throughout the sector.

Respective to general enrollment trends, the data show that undergraduate enrollment has still not recovered to the 2019 baseline, whereas graduate enrollment increased during the pandemic:

  • Overall fall enrollment has declined 5.8 percent from 2019-21, including a decrease of 2.6 percent from 2020-21.
  • Undergraduate enrollment declined 7.8 percent from 2019-21; this includes a 3.5 percent drop since 2020-21.
  • Graduate enrollment grew nearly 5 percent, including a 2.7 percent gain from 2019-20 and 2.1 percent gain from 2020-21.

Undergraduate enrollment declined across all racial and ethnic groups:

  • Black (-5.1 percent), Native American (-5.6 percent), and white (-5.2 percent) students saw the most significant decline in enrollment between fall 2020-21.
  • Asian and Latinx enrollment declined at a slower pace from 2020-21, dropping 2.2 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

International enrollment trends are mixed, with steep declines among undergraduate international students that have not fully recovered and less dramatic declines among international graduate students that have fully rebounded:

  • International undergraduate enrollment decreased 14.4 percent from 2019-20; from 2020-21, enrollment decreased at a slower rate of 3.1 percent.
  • International graduate enrollment decreased by 7 percent from 2019-20; from 2020-21, enrollment fully rebounded with a gain of nearly 13 percent.

NSC data also show that the pandemic significantly decreased transfer enrollments, which have almost fully recovered in the aggregate; however, there are significant disparities among different groupings of transfer students.

  • Compared to the 9.2 percent drop between fall 2019-20, transfer enrollment appears to have become more stable, dropping less than one percent from fall 2020-21.
  • Transfers among continuing students are up 2.3 percent, compared to a drop of 10.3 percent from 2019-20.
  • Transfers are down 5.8 percent among students returning from a stop-out for fall 2021; this contributes to a total decline of 12.6 percent among returning students since 2019.
  • Upward transfer enrollment, dropped 1.6 percent from fall 2020-21, slower than the 2.7 percent decline from fall 2019-20.
  • The only group to experience growth from fall 2020-21 is younger transfers (ages 18-20), up 13.6 percent. This group has fully recovered from the 8.7 percent decline in 2019-2020.

Click here to read the most up-to-date analysis of COVID-19’s impact on enrollment. Click here to read the most recent analysis on transfers.

—Matthew Williams

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