Saturday, June 8, 2019

Enrollment declines, campus closings, economic losses and the hollowing out of America








Once again, the National Student Clearinghouse report on college enrollment was enlightening, and devastating. US college enrollment has been declining steadily for at least eight years, and community colleges and for-profit colleges are hardest hit--but that's only part of the story.

State by state losses are not uniform. It appears that they mirror the hollowing out of America.

National Student Clearinghouse reported losses in 40 states, most notably in Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, and Montana, and Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Maryland, West Virginia, Florida, and South Carolina, all which have significant and complicated rural histories. 


State      F2011       F2018   Loss/Gain
Alaska 35,473 24,910 31.80%
New Mexico 144,202 111,916 22.30%
Hawaii 65,638 52,043 20.70%
Michigan 633,576 496,668 21.60%
Illinois 758,074 598,316 21.10%
Oregon 253,403 204,007 19.40%
Missouri 411,508 338,230 17.80%
West Virginia 169,510 140,558 17.10%
Montana 55,945 46,610 16.70%
Minnesota 420,655 354,820 15.60%
Arkansas 178,628 151,238 15.30%
Louisiana 261,494 224,534 14.10%
Kentucky 277,688 239,774 13.70%
Indiana 402,850 349,547 13.20%
Oklahoma 211,151 182,507 13.60%
Pennsylvania 755,158 654,165 13.30%
Ohio 689,862 599,111 13.20%
Wisconsin 350,803 304,478 13.20%
Maryland 387,487 337,683 12.90%
North Dakota 56,359 49,329 12.40%
Wyoming 32,729 28,904 11.70%
Iowa 221,732 196,511 11.30%
Nebraska 141,944 126,561 10.80%
New York 1,191,463 1,063,775 10.70%
New Jersey 421,196 379,812 9.80%
Mississippi 180,310 163,428 9.40%
Kansas 203,748 184,721 9.30%
Massachusetts 477,423 433,745 9.10%
Florida 1,077,332 985,508 8.50%
Colorado 320,626 294,234 8.20%
Virginia 529,007 486,141 8.10%
Maine 70,051 64,383 8.10%
Washington 343,300 316,814 7.70%
Vermont 43,201 39,965 7.50%
South Carolina 246,121 229,940 6.60%
North Carolina 555,392 521,522 6.10%
Tennessee 320,979 302,520 5.80%
Rhode Island 72,722 68,503 5.80%
District of Columbia 77,652 73,813 4.90%
California 2,559,423 2,466,138 3.60%
Georgia 525,734 511,152 2.80%
Nevada 112,736 109,995 2.50%
Alabama 294,853 289,738 1.70%
Connecticut 193,381 187,010 1.40%
Delaware 56,103 56,196 0.00%
South Dakota 45,398 46,980 3.50%
Texas 1,431,062 1,485,924 3.80%
Idaho 96,649 100,937 4.40%
Arizona 427,789 448,323 4.80%
Utah* 254,731 344,895 35.40%
New Hampshire* 78,112 152,065 94.70%


A county by county analysis of enrollment patterns could provide even more understanding. In this case, we also see significant declines in urban areas that have been deindustrialized, depopulated, and underfunded. 

Enrollment losses in some cases lead to campus closings, and in some cases these campus closings lead to economic hardship. Conservative economist Richard Vedder has been observing enrollment losses in the Midwest for years. And Elizabeth Hewitt described in detail the economic ripple effects for small college towns in a 2019 Hechinger Report. But the story was mostly about New England. And from what the NSC reports, some of the biggest losses are outside New England and the Midwest.

What's happening in your neck of the woods? Can someone tell us what's happening on in Alaska, Hawaii, and New Mexico, where enrollments are decreasing dramatically and for so many years? Is it just that the economy is doing well, or are there other important stories to tell?

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