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Higher Education Enrollment Down for the First Time in 15 Years

For the first time since 1996, higher education enrollment dropped in fall 2011, according to a report of preliminary data released last Tuesday by the US Department of Education.

The report, which is based on data collected from over 7,000 colleges and universities that receive federal student aid, showed that enrollment dropped by a little under a percent from last year, the first time enrollment has dropped compared to the previous year in 15 years.

Ultimately, undergraduate enrollment dropped from 18.65 million students in 2010 to 18.62 million in 2011. Additionally, graduate enrollment fell from 2.93 million in 2011 from 2.94 million in 2010.

The report does not provide any theories on the reasons behind that drop, though for-profit institutions have reported that their falling enrollments could be explained by a weak economic and criticism of the sector.

On the public side, institutions could point toward reduced capacities that have been caused by vastly reduced state funding.

The full report on higher education in 2011 will be released by the Department of Education in December.