College enrollment numbers tend to be cyclical. A poor economy forces many adult learners into the classroom to retrain or hone their skills, but when it improves, enrollments decrease as they return to the workforce.
That’s the current state of affairs for community colleges and for-profit institutions across the country according to new data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The report reveals that 2015 totals are down 1.9 percent — to fewer than 18.6 million students — compared to spring 2014. Most of that decline is due to students who are 24 and older. That group declined by 3.6 percent, to about 7 million.
The majority of that decline occurred at two-year public colleges — which were down 3.9 percent — and at four-year for-profit institutions, which had a drop of 4.9 percent compared to last spring.