College enrollment fell nationally this spring compared with last year, and Pennsylvania’s universities and colleges were hit particularly hard, according to a new national report.
Pennsylvania’s enrollment declined 2.6 percent, or more than 16,800 students, to 628,279, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In raw numbers, Pennsylvania’s decline was the fifth largest, behind Florida, California, Illinois and Michigan. (Pennsylvania was not among states with the largest percentage decreases.)
Nationally, enrollment fell 1.7 percent, the report said, with about 17.5 million undergraduate and graduate students enrolled.
“Colleges and universities in many regions continue to struggle from the combined effects of a strong job market and smaller numbers of high school graduates,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center, said in a statement. “Growth in the numbers of graduate and professional students has not been large enough to make up for the declines in undergraduates in recent years.”
The Keystone State also experienced enrollment declines in each of the prior two years, as some colleges in the region and statewide struggle to bring in enough freshmen. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which oversees the 14 state-supported universities, recently announced a voluntary retirement program for professors; the schools project another enrollment decline for the fall.
New Jersey fared a bit better. Its colleges and universities experienced a 1.1 percent decline, to 361,569.
And Delaware saw its enrollment rise 1 percent to 54,908, according to the report.
One bright spot is that enrollment of students under 18 at all kinds of colleges grew, indicating increased interest in dual enrollment classes that allow students still in high school to earn college credits.