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The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently launched its Stay Informed research series, which aims to track postsecondary enrollment in the U.S. in near real-time. Its latest findings analyze enrollment trends at 2,300 colleges for the 2020 summer academic term (May-July 2020).

Overall, the Clearinghouse Research Center’s data dashboard paints a mixed picture of the higher education sector and reveals the potential pressure points for community colleges, for-profit schools, and rural institutions. In addition, the results illustrate growing enrollment gaps in underrepresented populations, particularly among Black students and men.

The Clearinghouse Research Center found that overall enrollment held steady this summer (up 0.2 percent compared to 2019). However, this top-level finding masks enrollment shifts across institution types and by student characteristics. Notably, data show that a significant increase in graduate enrollment (up 3.8 percent) offset modest declines in undergraduate enrollment (down 0.9 percent), resulting in relatively flat enrollment overall.

Analysis by institution type revealed similarly uneven trends, with community colleges and for-profit schools experiencing steep enrollment declines this summer, while four-year public and four-year private, nonprofit institutions saw moderate increases.

The data suggest that campus setting also impacted enrollment trends. Public and private nonprofit four-year institutions in cities and suburban areas saw enrollment grow this summer, while rural institutions had enrollment declines.

Graduate enrollments increased across all gender, age, and racial/ethnic lines.

Hispanic graduate enrollment picked up significantly, growing by 12.7 percent. In fact, overall Hispanic student enrollment was up across all institution types except community colleges, which saw a moderate enrollment decline (down 2.6 compared to 2019). In contrast, Black undergraduate enrollment fell dramatically across all institution types, dropping by 8.3 percent overall, even as Black graduate enrollment rose moderately (up by 3.2 percent). Similarly, male undergraduate enrollment decreased by 5.2 percent, even as graduate enrollment increased by 3.3 percent.


Kat Masterson

Assistant Director, Research and Policy Analysis


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