Report: Florida higher ed enrollment drops, shadowing a national decline

Florida A&M University graduates. Wikimedia Commons photo

Florida had the second highest enrollment decline in college and university students in the nation this fall, according to an education research group.

Florida dipped 5.3 percent this fall, down more than 52,000 students from fall 2018, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The data includes both 4-year public and private institutions and public 2-year colleges, as well as and profit and nonprofit institutions.

Alaska had the largest decline, at 10.6 percent.

Florida’s enrollment decline was well above the national average, which was a 1.3 percent drop, the report shows.

Florida was an outlier among the largest states this fall, compared to New York with a 1.8 percent decline and California with a 0.8 percent enrollment dip. Post-secondary enrollment in Texas increased by 0.3 percent, the report shows.

Nationally, the largest enrollment decline – 2.1 percent – was among students enrolled in four-year, for-profit schools, the report shows.

National enrollment in public four-year institutions declined 1.2 percent, while public enrollment in two-year institutions dropped 1.4 percent, the report shows.

Most experts attribute the majority of the decline nationally to a strong economy.

“The biggest factor for the years of decline is the strong economy,” according to NPR. “The last time U.S. college enrollment went up was 2011, at the tail end of the recession. As the economy gets better, unemployment goes down — it’s currently at 3.5 percent — and more people leave college, or postpone it, and head to work.”

Since the fall of 2017, Florida’s postsecondary enrollment has dropped by nearly 70,000 students, or a 6.9 percent decline, the report shows. Florida has 933,180 postsecondary students enrolled this fall.

The report also shows declining enrollments in undergraduate college majors at 4-year universities nationally, including a 9.1 percent decline in “Theology and Religious Vocations,” and a 7.1 percent decline for “Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities (includes undeclared).