College Enrollment Statistics

College Enrollment Statistics 2023

College enrollment statistics are a topic of interest for higher education institutions, prospective students, and their families. These statistics play a crucial role in determining the current state of the higher education landscape and can provide valuable insight into the trends and patterns shaping colleges’ and universities’ future.

Whether you’re an educator, student, or simply interested in the subject, it’s essential to understand the various metrics used to evaluate college enrollment and to stay up-to-date with the latest data and trends. Here, we will explore the different aspects of college enrollment statistics, including the impact of demographic and economic factors on enrollment rates. In addition, we will discuss the estimates of these trends for the future of higher education.

Key Takeaways

  • Total fall enrollment reached 18.2M; undergraduate enrollment makes up for 15.1M, and graduate enrollment takes the remaining 3.1M.
  • Declines in fall undergraduate enrollment began to stabilize in 2022, slipping by just 0.6 %.
  • 44% of respondents believe that a degree will increase their earning potential.
  • Nearly 38% of respondents cited the prohibitive expenses associated with attending college as their primary reason for not pursuing post-secondary education.
  • In 2022, the business program experienced a significant increase in enrollment, with a growth of 1.2%.
  • The enrollment of Latinx and Asian undergraduate students has increased by 1.6% and 1.8%, respectively.
  • The declining female college enrollment trend has persisted, with a reduction of 1.5% or a total of 122,000 students.

Topics Covered


Current Term Enrollment Estimates


Is College A Top Priority For High School Students?


Reasons Behind Enrollment Numbers


College Enrollment by Age


College Enrollment by Major


College Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity


College Enrollment by Gender


College Enrollment by State


What The Future Holds


Bottom Line

Current Term Enrollment Estimates

The drop in undergraduate enrollment during the fall semester stabilized in 2022, decreasing by only 94,000 students or 0.6% compared to fall 2021. Enrollment at community colleges and private non-profit four-year institutions did much better, +0.4% and -0.1%, respectively, following the previous year’s drops, -6.7% and -1.6%, respectively.

The public four-year sector continues to experience larger declines, dropping another 1.4% in 2022 (or -88,000 students) compared to fall 2020 (-0.3%). However, private for-profit four-year institutions have increased, adding 29,000 more students.

In comparison, graduate enrollment did poorly

The fall enrollment at the graduate level experienced a 1.2% decline following two successive years of substantial growth, +3.0% in 2020 and +2.4% in 2021. As a result, the total enrollment for the fall of 2022, including both undergraduate and graduate students, remains significantly lower compared to pre-pandemic levels, constituting a deficit of 5.8% relative to the enrollment figures from 2019 (equivalent to a reduction of 1.1 million students).

Is College A Top Priority For High School Students?

In recent years, a shift in priorities among students has been observed, with a significant percentage prioritizing emotional and financial stability over obtaining a college degree. This trend reflects a growing emphasis on practical considerations and a desire to achieve tangible outcomes, such as building a successful business, traveling, and starting a family.

While obtaining a college degree has traditionally been seen as a pathway to increased opportunities and financial security, many students now prioritize stability and independence over academic pursuits. As such, the list of priorities includes the following:

Just under half say they plan to go to college

Regarding future plans for higher education, it has been noted that 16% of individuals surveyed have yet to make a definitive decision, and 13% have stated their intention not to pursue further education. In comparison, 26% have expressed uncertainty and the possibility of either pursuing or not pursuing college.

Future plans regarding college

On the other hand, only 46% have indicated a clear intention to pursue higher education. These findings highlight the need for increased awareness and support for higher education opportunities to ensure that all individuals have access to further their education and reach their full potential.

How ready are students to go to college in terms of time?

Approximately 15% of the respondents plan to pursue higher education within the next six months, indicating that they are already well-prepared and eager to embark on their college journey.

Another 31% of the respondents aim to start their college education between 6 to 12 months from now, showing that they have already given significant thought and consideration to their academic future.

The majority of the respondents, 37%, have a more flexible timeline and plan to commence their college education within the next 1 to 3 years, suggesting they intend to explore different academic options and finalize their educational goals before committing.

When do you plan to go to college?

How much do students value education?

Students place a significant value on education and training opportunities, with 44% treasuring on-the-job training, 35% valuing obtaining a license through a course or courses, and 35% valuing a 4-year college or university degree.

On-the-job training
A course/courses to receive a license
4-year college or university degree
Course/s to receive a verified certificate
Course/s to receive a professional certification
Trade or vocational school
2-year college/community college degree
YouTube courses in a particular field
Single-subject short course
Bootcamp program

However, when forced to choose only one option, 20% of respondents identified on-the-job training as offering the best value. Similarly, 21% deemed a 4-year college or university degree the most valuable.

Given these differing perspectives, it is evident that students generally attach great importance to education, but the value they assign to different forms of it varies wildly.

Reasons to get a degree

Data shows that career advancement and financial stability are the main reasons for obtaining a degree: 44% of respondents believe a degree will increase their earning potential, while 41% think it will help them secure a better job.

In addition, 37% of respondents believe that a degree will provide training for a specific career and prepare them for life, highlighting the importance of obtaining a well-rounded education that equips individuals with the necessary skills to succeed in both personal and professional life.

Some think that a degree contributes to personal growth and development; 25% of respondents believe that a degree will make them more cultured, highlighting the importance of education in fostering cultural understanding and appreciation.

Other reasons are as follows:

Reasons Behind Not So High Enrollment Numbers

The current trend of low enrollment rates in educational institutions is a matter of great concern and deserves academic scrutiny. Factors contributing to this phenomenon are multifaceted and can range from alterations in demographic trends and economic conditions to an absence of student involvement and satisfaction.

To address and rectify the situation, we must undertake an in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons and causes. This examination is crucial for preserving academic excellence and the future prosperity of educational institutions and their surrounding communities.

Cost remains a significant barrier to higher education for many students

A recent survey indicated that  38%  of respondents cited the prohibitive expenses associated with attending college as their primary reason for not pursuing a college education. This finding is in line with the growing concern about the increasing burden of student debt, which is widely present in academic and popular discourse.

Securing a job and building a career

A significant portion of students, accounting for 26% , have cited obtaining employment and generating income as the primary motivation for forgoing a higher education experience. This phenomenon can result from various factors such as financial constraints, lack of job security, and a perception of limited career advancement opportunities through traditional educational pathways. This trend highlights the need for educational institutions to provide alternatives that align with the economic and employment needs of the modern workforce.

Besides money, stress and uncertainty are also vital barriers to college

As mentioned, the barriers to accessing higher education are also psychological elements. While financial constraints emerge as the most significant obstacle to college attendance, a substantial portion of students, approximately 27%, also report stress and uncertainty as hindrances to their academic aspirations.

These non-financial barriers highlight the need for institutions to address students’ emotional and psychological well-being and provide financial support. It is crucial to acknowledge that the path to higher education can be challenging, and effective interventions should encompass both the tangible and intangible aspects of the college experience.

Past educational experiences impact their decision too

Additionally, one of the reasons why students decide not to pursue higher education is due to their negative experiences in school. A significant 18% of students reported that they did not enjoy attending school, contributing to their disinterest in pursuing a college education.

This finding sheds light on the need for educational institutions to address the underlying causes of students’ unhappiness in school and implement strategies to improve their overall educational experience.

Other reasons contributing to the low number of enrolled students include the following:

College Enrollment by Age

The conventional notion that college enrollment is restricted to a standard age group has been challenged in recent years by the substantial growth in the number of older adults enrolling in higher education institutions. The demographic of college students has become more varied as non-traditional students seek to enhance their professional abilities and seniors aim to broaden their knowledge and expertise.

Whether an individual is in their third or fourth decade of life or even in their senior years, the ability to pursue higher education remains attainable and accessible. With the ongoing technological developments and the implementation of flexible learning models, this is a prime moment for individuals to return to college and advance their careers.

There was less disparity among age groups

The number of adult learners who were 25 years old or older decreased by 4.2%, a decrease of 176,000 students, leading to a total decline of 570,000 undergraduate students since the fall of 2019. On the other hand, the reduction for those 24 years old or younger was 663,000, or 5.7%.

Still, when comparing the enrollment by race and ethnicity, those 24 and over show a more significant decline in 2022, especially white students who currently account for a -6.8% change in enrollment from the previous year. In the list of students ages 25 and over, Asians account for the second most significant decline in enrollment, with a change of -5.3%

On the other hand, students 24 and younger, when compared to their counterparts, have shown a rise in enrollment. The case is especially true for Asians, with a significant change of 3.6% from the previous year.

College Enrollment by Major

College enrollment has been a rapidly evolving trend over the past few decades, with students gravitating toward a select few majors deemed to have a high demand in the job market.

The most popular majors among college students are business, health sciences, and technology, and data shows they continue to dominate in popularity. Understanding the patterns in college enrollment by major is crucial in determining the future workforce and the direction of the job market.

At four-year institutions, only business enrollment
grew from 2021

The enrollment trend in four-year institutions reveals an interesting pattern in recent years. From 2017 to 2021, business enrollment showed a decline. However, in 2022, it experienced a significant increase in enrollment, with a growth of 19,000 students, or a 1.2% change from the previous year. This considerable growth in business enrollment highlights the growing demand for business education and the importance of equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Computer Sciences continued to grow significantly

Computer Sciences has consistently maintained its growth trajectory over the years, with no significant decline observed from 2017 to 2021. However, in 2022, the major witnessed a remarkable increase, with a 10.4% growth rate observed over the past years. This surge in Computer Science serves as a testament to its relevance and importance in the modern world and its potential for continued growth in the future.

Public Administration and Social Service Professions had the most significant decrease

The Public Administration and Social Service Professions sector experienced a substantial decline in 2022, with a change rate of -6.5% over the preceding years. This represents a significant shift in the employment landscape and has implications for those seeking careers within these fields.

College Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity

College enrollment by race and ethnicity is a crucial examination area for higher education institutions. The demographic landscape of college students has undergone significant changes over the years, with varying enrollment patterns among different racial and ethnic groups.

A thorough understanding of these patterns is essential for addressing disparities in access to higher education and promoting diversity and inclusivity on college campuses.

White students exhibited the steepest declines

White students are the largest demographic group in the United States. However, recent data suggest that white students have experienced the most significant decrease in college enrollment, with a drop of 3.6% or 240,000 individuals.

Black and Native American students follow
on the list of declines

Black and Native American students have historically faced numerous barriers to accessing and succeeding in higher education, including limited financial resources, under-resourced schools, and discrimination.

The data also reveals that Black and Native American students have experienced a decline in college enrollment, with a decrease of 1.9% and 1.6 respectively. This trend is noteworthy as it highlights the disparities in higher education access and attainment among different racial and ethnic groups.

Latinx and Asian undergraduate student enrollment increased

Contrarily, the enrollment of Latinx and Asian undergraduate students has increased, rising by 1.6% and 1.8%, respectively. This growth is a positive indicator of the growing diversity and representation of minority groups in higher education.

College Enrollment by Sex or Gender

Despite decades of advancements in gender equality, the enrollment patterns of male and female students in colleges and universities continue to display disparities. These differences often reflect broader social, economic, and cultural trends impacting educational opportunities and outcomes for young men and women.

Understanding the complexities of gender-based enrollment patterns is essential for designing effective policies and programs that promote equitable access to higher education for all students.

Male enrollments were stable

The enrollment of male students in higher education institutions remained consistent, with a marginal increase of 0.2% or an additional 15,000 students compared to the previous academic year. This stability in male enrollment highlights the persistence of male students in pursuing higher education, despite potential obstacles or challenges.

Female enrollment declines continued

The declining female college enrollment trend has persisted into 2022, with a reduction of 1.5% or a total of 122,000 students. This phenomenon raises concerns about the equal representation of genders in higher education and the potential long-term consequences for women in the workforce. The reasons for this decline are complex and multifaceted and require further research and analysis to understand and address fully.

College Enrollment by State

College enrollment is a crucial aspect in determining the future of a state’s workforce and economy. It reflects the education and skills of its population and sets the stage for future workforce development. In this part, we will explore the college enrollment trends by state, highlighting the areas leading the way in higher education and those that may require additional support. Understanding these trends can help shape the future of the country as a whole.

In 2022, the fall undergraduate enrollment trends showed positive growth in all regions of the United States compared to the previous year. The Northeast and Midwest regions recorded a modest decrease in enrollment, with a decline of -1.1% or -24,000 students in the Northeast and -1.2% or -34,000 students in the Midwest.

The decrease in enrollment in the Northeast can be attributed to the states of New York (-2.0%, -16,000 students) and Pennsylvania (-2.0%, -10,000 students).

Meanwhile, the Midwest saw the majority of its decline in Missouri (-4.5%, -11,000 students), Minnesota (-4.1%, -10,000 students), and Ohio (-1.7%, -8,000 students).

Conversely, the West and South regions experienced an increase of +0.5% and +0.2% respectively.

Explore the maps below for more state-specific trends:

Total number of enrollment

Change from previous years

What The Future Holds

The world of higher education is undergoing a massive transformation, and with that change, the future of college enrollments is becoming increasingly uncertain. With advancements in different areas and shifting societal priorities, how students access and receive their education is rapidly evolving. As such, the estimates of future college enrollments are as follows:

Future college enrollment estimates

Bottom Line

Analyzing college enrollment statistics is a crucial step in comprehending the educational landscape in the United States. The available data points to increased enrollment in higher education institutions, particularly among the Latinx and Asian demographic. The enrollment figures between genders have a slight tendency for male enrollment.

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