How Black Enrollments in Higher Education Have Been Impacted by the Global Pandemic

New research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds that college enrollments have continued to fall this year after a decrease a year ago due to the global pandemic. Undergraduate enrollment is down 3.2 percent from a year ago. Undergraduate student numbers have now fallen by 6.5 percent from two years ago. First-year enrollments declined by 3.1 percent overall this year and 3.9 percent among traditional-age students.

When we examine the data by racial and ethnic groups, we find that Black enrollments are down 5.1 percent from a year ago. This is slightly deeper than the decline for Whites. Over the two-year period from 2019 to 2021, Black enrollments are down 11.1 percent, compared to a drop of 10.6 percent for Whites.

Black enrollments in two-year community colleges are down 11.4 percent this year, a slightly steeper drop than the decline for Whites. Over the two-year period from 2019 to 2021, Black enrollments in community colleges are down a whopping 33.4 percent. White enrollments in community colleges are down 20.3 percent during the same period.

At the graduate level, enrollments for both Blacks and Whites inched up only slightly this year. But over the two-year period from 2019 to 2021 Black enrollments in graduate schools are up by 10.2 percent, nearly double the increase for Whites.

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  1. I find it interesting that our enrollments in graduate school have risen by 10% over the past two years. However, our matriculation into post-secondary education over the same past two years is down. I would love to see a comparison to trade schools. Historically when jobs are scarce or the economy is poor, enrollment rises. If businesses were closed/forced to minimal operation in 2020 for months, school enrollment did not go up. What was everyone doing during this time?

    • I believe that there is an evaluation of the probative value of post secondary education. Higher learning possessed benefited from information asymmetry. More people are discovering how to leverage their experiences to learn more without incurring crushing amounts of debt that are proving to not be worth it. You could get a graduate degree and quickly move to six figures, pay down debt and live a great life. It is time to consider favorable options and that may be what the numbers above indicate.

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