Fall 2023 Data About US Online Enrollment

Connecting data points from NSC and earnings reports and private conversations

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Last week the big news was National Student Clearinghouse’s initial release of Fall 2023 data on US higher education enrollment. The headline numbers were a year-over-year 2.1% increase in undergraduate enrollment (the first increase since pre-pandemic) and a 0.7% increase in graduate enrollment. The data were mixed, particularly with a 3.6% decline in freshman enrollment.

What I have not seen covered at all is the Fall 2023 data for online education enrollment. There is only partial information on this segment, but we can connect some dots. And the picture that emerges is online student enrollment growth looking stronger than the overall numbers, at a 7 - 10% year-over-year increase, at least for institutions with a large online presence.

NSC Data

The first data point is from the NSC data release looking at Primarily Online Institutions (POIs), defined as “any institution that reports more than 90 percent of its undergraduate and graduate combined enrolling exclusively in distance education courses prior to the pandemic.”

Enrollment at primarily online institutions (POIs) had significant growth at both the undergraduate (+10.2%) and graduate level (+6.2%) this fall for a total enrollment increase of 9.5 percent.

Informal Data (i.e., conversations with reliable sources)

  • While the full data are not out, and the company is not publicly traded and therefore does not need to report publicly, I have been told that the University of Phoenix is also seeing healthy enrollment increases for Fall 2023. Most likely in the mid to high single-digits. Hopefully that data will become public as part of the University of Idaho acquisition process.

  • Southern New Hampshire University is seeing an increase in new starts 6.2% year-over-year. Other schools are seeing higher retention, and I suspect that SNHU’s total enrollment are higher than this number. These increases is on top of a huge base, the largest in US higher education.

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