Enrollment Declines for Spring 2022: Decreasing Numbers of Adult Students and Certificates
With the continuing surge in the job market and many employers abandoning the college degree as a hiring requirement, it appears that workers are leaving higher education, including our once-promising certificates and other short-term programs. In the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s report on Spring 2022 enrollments, the news was grim, with an overall drop of 4.1%, declines in enrollment among the 18-24 age category and a 0.8% drop in graduate enrollments.
Drops in Adult Enrollment
Enrollment among adult students (aged 25 and older) has declined in all sectors of higher education, with especially large drops in the public two-year sector. Adult enrollment has dropped 22% at community colleges over the last three years. The modest rebound last year for the public four-year and non-profit four-year was offset by the decline this year.
Drops in Certificate Enrollment
Many pinned their hopes on growing certificates and other short-term programs. In the NSCRC data, the for-credit part of undergraduate certificates is reported in the “other undergraduate” category, and these enrollments were also down. It does not appear that a higher education desire to provide short-term, for-credit programs is being met with enrollment success.
What About Non-Credit Enrollments?
These numbers do not account for non-credit enrollments, which are not reported in this source. A hotter job market means more opportunities for non-credit training, since employers are hiring. Training is often seen as essential and an important benefit. If there are opportunities in the current market, they appear to be in our non-credit offerings.
Higher education enrollments have historically been somewhat counter cyclical, expanding during downturns and contracting during hot job markets. It appears that the current numbers reflect that historical trend.
Author Perspective: Administrator