The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on schools throughout the United States from kindergarten to college, as virtual learning with online classes has been challenging for everyone involved. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has now taken a big hit.
Total undergraduate enrollment in the Unites States has dropped 6.6% -- or 1,205,600 students -- since the fall of 2019, and dropped 3.1% from fall of 2020 to the fall of 2021.
“Our final look at fall 2021 enrollment shows undergraduates continuing to sit out in droves as colleges navigate yet another year of COVID-19,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said.
High tuition prices, among other factors, had already caused a decline in college enrollment in the United States prior to the pandemic.
COVID-19 then forced many classes go online and created restrictions for students on campus.
Many prospective students even chose to begin working instead of enrolling in school, and others were forced to drop out because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Public two-year community colleges were shown to have been hit the hardest, with enrollment down 13.2% or 706,000 students compared to 2019.
The number of students age 24 and older also dropped, along with those pursuing an associate degrees at a four-year college.
"Without a dramatic re-engagement in their education, the potential loss to these students’ earnings and futures is significant, which will greatly impact the nation as a whole in years to come," Shapiro said in a news release.
First-year student enrollment slightly improved compared to last year, increasing 0.4%, or 8,100 students, from 2020 to 2021.
Overall, first-year student enrollment is still 9.2% lower than it was in the fall of 2019 before the pandemic hit the country.