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- Spring 2021 Enrollment Update: The flight to heavily online institutions
Spring 2021 Enrollment Update: The flight to heavily online institutions
The key graphic from NSC shows the enrollment drops by sector.
Clarification on Community College Data
Before talking about the flight to heavily online institutions, it is worth clarifying whether or not the NSC data factor in the sector changes. I called out in March that historical NSC data and ongoing IPEDS data methodologies overstate community college enrollment declines.
During the pandemic, however, NSC has eliminated this sector changing issue by keeping all institutions within their Fall 2018 reported sectors. In the current methodology section, NSC describes how the data is “restricted to the fixed panel of institutions, and the institution sector identified by the IPEDS data is applied consistently across all comparison years 2019-2021.” Kudos to NSC for their data methodologies and transparent descriptions, but this data set is truly problematic for community colleges.
The Flight to Heavily Online Institutions
What is quite interesting is the reverse story for “primarily online institutions,” or POIs, in the NSC data. POIs are 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.” For this group, enrollment continued to increase across the board.
But this chart actually understates the flight to institutions that were heavily invested in online education prior to the pandemic. The 90% definition excludes large universities such as Arizona State University that have large online populations. ASU reported increased enrollment for Spring 2021.
I also noticed that the data coverage most likely excludes Southern New Hampshire University, which is a POI but did not make it into the current NSC estimate based on the 28% coverage for undergraduate enrollments in New Hampshire.
In the recent Ellucian Live users conference, SNHU president Paul LeBlanc described the significant enrollment increases – from 133k to 170k in the past year – at that institution.
tells #elive2021 how SNHU has grown from 133k to 170k+ students in the past year, requiring hiring of 630+ full-time employees
— Phil Hill (@PhilOnEdTech)
Apr 12, 2021
Make no mistake, one of the trends we are seeing is a flight of students toward institutions that had deep experience in online education and a broad set of offerings prior to the pandemic – let’s call them heavily online institutions. Traditional college enrollment is down in the US, particularly for community colleges, but there are a group of institutions that are seeing record enrollments, and one of the biggest factors is prior investment in online.
NSC Data Visualizations
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