Combined US Higher Education Enrollment Fall 2012 – Spring 2022
The two best sources for enrollment data for US Higher Education are the Department of Education’s IPEDS data set and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) reports. The NSC shares both the Current Term Enrollment Estimates reports (May and December) and ongoing Stay Informed estimates during the spring and fall terms as data comes in.
IPEDS: Based on census with nearly all institutions reporting; best for historical data but usually 12 – 18 months after the terms has ended
NSC Current Term: Based on survey with “97 percent of the total enrollments at Title IV, degree-granting institutions in the U.S.” reporting; best for summarizing the term just completed in a timely manner
NSC Stay Informed: Based on sample of surveys to date; best for estimates in near realtime
IPEDS most recent data release was for Fall 2020 as we covered here. NSC today released their Current Term Enrollment Estimates report for Spring 2022, with plenty of outlets covering the headline findings – namely that the enrollment declines continue to be worse than expected (maybe we should adjust our expectations?). Inside Higher Ed reported:
With the new data, I’m updating our combined enrollment model where I started with existing IPEDS data for Fall 2012 through Fall 2020, and I used NSC growth / decline percentages to extrapolate IPEDS data for each sector for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The intent is to provide the historical context and accuracy of IPEDS along with the more timely updates from NSC.
I am showing Adjusted Sector data by removing the sector changes created by all the community colleges creating bachelor degrees and artificially reclassifying sectors. The Adjusted Sectors also remove the sector changes due to nonprofit conversions such as Purdue Global and UAGC. See here, here and here for a more complete explanation.
With that in mind, here is a combined enrollment model for Fall 2012 – Spring 2022.
It goes without saying that the data trends are ugly.
Now you can see the pandemic era enrollment declines in more context and get a better idea of the enrollment health of each sector in a more timely manner. I have modeled this as full-year data, essentially assuming that Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 changes point to expected Fall 2022 changes. When we get new data late this year, expect updates for 2021 (replacing NSC with IPEDS data) and 2022 (adjusting the model with NSC data scheduled for December).
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