A new report from the Center for American Progress finds that even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, higher education was facing a national decline in enrollment. From the 2014-15 to the 2018-19 academic year, annual undergraduate enrollment across all institutions of higher education fell by 1.25 million students, a decline of 5 percentage points.
There has been a decline of more than 200,000 Black students in public colleges and universities. The number of Black and White students in private nonprofit and for-profit institutions also declined over this period.
The report notes that the percentage of young White Americans with at least an associate’s degree is 19 percentage points higher than for young Black adults. Absent significant increases in graduation rates, declines in the number of Black students in college will make it hard to shrink their attainment gap relative to White students.
The report concludes that “the novel coronavirus makes responding to these enrollment changes even more important. While it is currently unknown how the pandemic will affect college attendance and completion for the full academic year, initial data suggest that there has already been a significant decline in Black student enrollment.”