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National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession

Dadashova, A., et al. National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, Herndon, VA, 2011. Pages: 72.

December 2007 and June 209 have been identified by the United States’ National Bureau of Economic Research as the starting and ending points, respectively, of the recent economic recession, at least in terms of its effects on the US. During the same timeframe, US higher education institutions were vigorously called upon to expand access and college completion success rates, while dealing with shifting enrolment patterns and falling state budget support, among other developments. How did this confluence of events affect traditional-age students enrolling in colleges and universities across the country for the first time? To answer this question, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in collaboration with the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University, examined enrolment data related to these kinds of students who began their college careers in the fall terms of 2006 through 2010. In doing so, the eight authors involved in the project came to four main conclusions:

  • Community college enrolment increases were largely responsible for the overall enrolment trends.
  • Four-year public institutions proved less able to maintain or increase enrolment levels than did two-year publics and four-year privates.
  • Decisions to study either full-time or part-time did not fluctuate greatly during the period under study.
  • There were varied enrolment patterns clearly discernible across the different geographic regions of the country.

Among other things, the report concludes that the recession did not result in an enrolment surge in the US, as many had feared. However, the authors urge much more study of the dynamics of student enrolment decision-making in the context of economic recession, to inform and guide effective policymaking for the future.

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center