In this episode, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss National Student Clearinghouse data on Fall 2020 higher education enrollment. It’s not pretty.
* Phil Hill* Jeanette Wiseman* Kevin Kelly
* The Complexities of Online Education and Fall 2020 Enrollment Data (PhilOnEdTech)* America Will Sacrifice Anything for the College Experience (The Atlantic)
Phil: Welcome to COVID Transitions, where we discuss higher education as we deal with the pandemic and look what it’s doing with our enrollment and operations. In particular, now that we’re deep into the fall, we want to purposely go beyond just saying what’s going to happen and start looking at real results of the fall and also start looking ahead to what this means for the spring term and beyond. I’m here, as usual, with Kevin Kelly and Jeanette Wiseman. It’s great to talk to both of you.
Jeanette: Good morning.
Phil: To set up the discussion, I had written a blog post. It was looking at the National Student Clearinghouse data. Essentially, they put out a second look at the enrollment in the fall 2020 for U.S. higher education. On one hand, it’s slightly worse than the first estimate.
Now that we have more data in, the total undergraduate enrollment looks to be down four percent compared to a year ago, [00:01:00] which is not the greatest. That headline sort of hides some very troubling data that we wanted to discuss today and some significance that we need to think about. In particular, I’ll call out two just to get started.
The big one is that first time student enrollment is down 16 percent across the board, and for community colleges, it’s down 23 percent. At the same time, community college enrollment overall is down nine point four percent compared to a year prior. They were already worse than before, but now it looks to be much worse. In particular, first time student change has got to have some major repercussions going forward. We’ll get started with that, but there are definitely other observations we want to add in.
Let’s just start with this. How concerned should higher education institutions [00:02:00] be, particularly around the first time student drop and the community college enrollment drops? Kevin, how concerned are you?
Kevin: Well, I think that the person you quoted from Inside Higher Ed, the community college dean, gets it right. He talks it’s more about affordability, underlying income and wealth than it is about the tuition. I think the lower the tuition, especially the City College of San Francisco is seeing that even free tuition, is still not really enough because those people who are possibly needing to work or having challenges or other priorities they need to focus on. It’s a function of things more than tuition. I think he gets it right.
Phil: Just to add to this from a data perspective, because at the same time that the low cost community college has gone down even more, the for-profit enrollments have gone up and [00:03:00] private non-profit. Basically some of the more expensive options have actually increased somewhat. Jeanette, same question for you. Are you surprised? Are you concerned? How do you look at this drop?