Nationally, college enrollments are declining.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently reported that college student enrollments across the country declined 1.3% over last year. This would mark the fourth straight year of declining enrollments nationwide after a peak in 2011.
Nationally, the largest dip came from a decline in students enrolling in for-profit colleges (down 9%) and community colleges (down 3%), while four-year public and private universities saw a slight increase in enrollment (less than 1%). The number of older students—those over 24—dropped 3% as well.
Experts have pinpointed the country’s recovery from the Great Recession as the reason why college enrollment has dipped in recent years. When people couldn’t get — or keep — jobs between 2007 and 2009, they went back to school to increase their job skills. As the economy improves and Americans get back to work, college enrollment, especially for older students and the community colleges they are more likely to attend, tends to decline.
In contrast, Utah expects enrollments to grow by 2.6% over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, Utah appears to be bucking the national trend of declining enrollments. Last week, the Utah System of Higher Education released projected student enrollment figures, which show an additional 52,000 students are expected to come to Utah’s public college and university campuses over the next ten years.
USHE End of Term Fall Headcount, actual and projected (2012-2025)
Current projections estimate that the Utah System of Higher Education will grow to approximately 227,000 students (156,000 FTE) by the fall 2025 semester. This represents a projected USHE fall end-of-term headcount growth rate of approximately 2.6% and annualized FTE growth rate of approximately 2.3% over the next ten years.
How are these projections calculated?
Each year, USHE institutions are asked to update their respective ten-year enrollment forecast estimates for Board of Regents review and approval. These estimates are prepared to help inform Regents and state-level policymakers about future enrollment levels at USHE institutions; assist in identifying capital development needs; and develop mid- to long-range operation plans.
Each USHE institution has a unique enrollment projection model to account for its distinct mission and goals. The models are based on state and institutional data sets that take into account variables such as:
- Utah population by age
- High school enrollments
- Unemployment estimates
Using this process, the 2014-15 Annualized FTE projections were within 1.3% of the observed data and all system projections were within a 5% margin of error.
Institutions enrollment projection models are evaluated annually in an open forum/peer review format comprised of Institutional Research professionals from each of Utah’s public colleges and universities. This year’s forum and discussion was held on April 11, 2016. The data presented in each of these models was accepted as valid for all USHE institutions.