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New preliminary data on fall 2020 from the U.S. Department of Education confirm declines in enrollment and retention.


Preliminary data released by the federal government today reaffirmed that colleges and universities lost hundreds of thousands of students last year as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on fall 2020 enrollments, particularly at community colleges. The new data , which also break down enrollment by state, shed light on some of the other ramifications of the pandemic, including changes in student retention rates, number of employees and institutional revenue.

College and university enrollment nationwide fell by 651,774 student — a decline of more than 3 percent — from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

Higher education institutions also had 151,627 fewer employees in fall 2020 compared to the previous fall, employing 3,867,250 full-time and part-time employees, down from 4,018,877 in fall 2019.

Some institutions experienced enrollment increases, however. Enrollment at public four-year institutions increased by 61,624 students, a less than 1 percent boost, and enrollment at both two-year and four-year for-profit institutions rose. Two-year for-profit colleges gained 22,069 more students, an 11 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The overall student body for all higher ed institutions in 2020 was 48.9 percent white, 12 percent Black, 18.7 percent Latinx, […]

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