Community College Enrollment Drops

January 11, 2012

Students on campusFollowing three years of significant increases driven by the economic downturn, the national enrollment in community colleges has declined over the last year. According to a report published by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), total enrollment dropped almost 1 percent, to 8.3 million between the fall of 2010 and 2011.

The report, Fall 2011: Estimated Headcount Enrollment and Pell Grant Trends, is based on estimates given by the National Student Clearinghouse and the AACC.

Enrollment Increases Due to Recession

Community-college enrollment surged 22 percent between fall 2007 and 2010, from 10.6 million to 12 million – a boom that has been widely attributed to people seeking new job skills in the wake of the recession. This explosive growth was undoubtedly fueled by the recession and occurred at a time of widespread state and local funding cuts, placing huge strains on campuses across the country. Now, that growth seems to have flattened. “There’s always a flattening after some especially bad economic downturns,” David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the AACC, told the The Chronicle of Higher Learning in October.

The study also revealed that while the number of full-time students fell, the number of part-time students increased.

The Washington, D.C. based AACC is the primary advocacy organization for community colleges at the national level and works closely with directors of state offices to inform and affect state policy. To view the report in its entirety, visit

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