Is college enrollment dropping?


The New York Times published a story on Thursday declaring that college enrollment recently hit its peak, and the decline in numbers of young Americans heading off to schools is beginning to drop.

According to the newspaper, enrollment fell 2 percent last year, for “the first significant decline since the 1990s,” in a shift that affected mostly for-profit schools. But the writing on the wall says the trend will likely shift to the more traditional, four-year colleges in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year, in a trend that will likely continue for several years to come.

What does that mean here in Southwestern Connecticut, where we have one of the highest concentration of college-educated adults in the country — many with pedigrees from some of the nation’s “best” schools? Maybe nothing, according to the Times:

Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.

“There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” said David A. Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which has more than 1,000 member colleges.

The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.

College is an engrained part of the culture for young people in many of the towns in our area, with most Southwestern Connecticut school districts sending more than half of their graduating classes on to four-year institutions, according to data from the State Department of Education, collected for the Class of 2010. Take a look here to see just how normalized this idea is in towns across our area:


Maggie Gordon