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### Increase in Undergraduate Enrollment Reported

After a period of decreasing figures, the enrollment of undergraduate students at higher education institutions in the United States is now on the rise again, as indicated by a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). Dr. Jeremy Cohen mentioned in the report that this growth is a positive development.

The NSC’s Fall 2023 report on Current Term Enrollment Estimates revealed a 1.2% increase in overall fall undergraduate enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities, with the number of enrollees climbing from 15,072,249 to 15,248,077, marking a rise of 175,828 students. This upturn signifies the first increase in fall undergraduate enrollment in several years, contrasting with the declining trends observed from 2019 to 2022, with Fall 2021 experiencing the most significant decline at -3.4%.

Dr. Doug Shapiro, the director of NSC’s research center, noted that the growth in undergraduate enrollment is primarily driven by existing students continuing their education from the previous year and re-enrolling after a break. The increase in new freshmen this year is relatively modest, with only 18,000 more compared to the previous year, accounting for around 10% of the total rise in undergraduate students.

In Fall 2023, enrollment at public two-year schools and community colleges surged notably by 2.6%, while both public and private nonprofit four-year institutions saw more modest increases of 0.6%.

The report highlighted that graduate school enrollment has shown slight improvements over the past five years, with a 0.6% increase in Fall 2023 following a 0.9% decline in 2022. Graduate enrollment is now almost 5% higher than pre-pandemic levels, indicating positive growth in this sector.

The NSC researchers also analyzed enrollment trends in community colleges focusing on transferring students versus those emphasizing vocational programs. Schools with a high vocational program focus experienced a substantial 16% increase, while those with a high transfer focus saw a marginal 0.2% rise. Schools with a mixed focus observed a 1.1% increase.

In terms of degree programs, associate degree programs saw a notable improvement of 2.2%, the first increase since 2015. However, the numbers remain below Fall 2019 levels by 14.2%. Bachelor’s degree program enrollment increased by 0.7% in Fall 2023 but is still 3.3% lower than Fall 2019 figures. On the other hand, there is a rising trend in students pursuing certificates.

Community colleges witnessed growth in Black (2.1%), Hispanic (5.5%), and Asian (6.3%) enrollment, while White and Native American enrollment declined by 1.3% and 2%, respectively. The report also indicated a rise in international student enrollment at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

In terms of academic pursuits, computer and information sciences and support services recorded the highest enrollment boost at undergraduate four-year institutions (9.5%), while mechanic and repair technologies saw the most significant rise (11.3%) at two-year schools.

Notably, older students aged 25 or above showed the highest rate of freshmen enrollment in Fall 2023, surpassing younger age groups. This trend was particularly evident at public four-year schools, where enrollment of students aged 25+ increased by 12.9%. Community colleges also experienced substantial growth in freshmen enrollment for students aged 25+ and 21-24.

Private nonprofit four-year institutions did not witness significant changes in enrollment for students aged 25+, contrasting with the fluctuations seen in previous years. Cohen emphasized the increasing trend of older freshmen across various race/ethnicity groups at public four-year institutions and community colleges.