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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

College Enrollment Continues To Fall - AdobeStock 35786259

A year after college enrollment first plunged due to the pandemic, enrollment numbers continue to slide. Undergraduate enrollment for fall 2021 fell another 3.2% YoY. (The Washington Post)

NH: College enrollment continues to decline. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate registration for fall 2021 fell -3.2% YoY.

That’s a -6.5% drop from fall 2019. (See “College Enrollment Fell for 2nd Consecutive Year.”) 

Over the last two years, where has enrollment fallen the most? By college type, the largest drop has been among public 2-year schools, down a whopping -14.1%. 

By credential type, the largest drops have been among those seeking 2- to 3-semester undergraduate certificates (-8.4%) and 2-year associate’s degrees (-14.1%).

There have been a few exceptions to the trend. Enrollment at highly selective schools has risen +1.4% from 2019. And registration in graduate programs has risen +5.3% from 2019. 

Nevertheless, the continued overall slide in enrollment indicates that this isn’t just a pandemic-induced blip. We don't know what these people are doing instead of college.

But some may be taking advantage of the red-hot jobs market. Employers desperate for workers are increasingly willing to forgo formal credentials. And that could explain the large drop at 2-year public schools. 

If this is indeed happening, I suspect many of these youths will bypass college altogether. 

College Enrollment Continues To Fall - Nov10 1

College Enrollment Continues To Fall - Nov10 2

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ABOUT NEIL HOWE

Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.