Higher Ed

Enrollment Rebounding After Pandemic Drop

For the first time since 2018, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in New Jersey institutions increased in fall 2022. Nationwide, enrollment of first-year students was up 4.3%.

According to data recently made available by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, total undergraduate enrollment in New Jersey increased by 1.1% from fall 2021 to fall 2022. Enrollment had fallen by 5.9% and 5.1% in the first two years of the pandemic – 2020 and 2021 – respectively.

Undergraduate Enrollment. Enrollment of undergraduate students increased most in the state’s community colleges (public two-year institutions). In fall 2022, enrollment increased 3.3% from the year prior.

The state’s community colleges were hit hardest by the pandemic, experiencing enrollment declines of 11.2% and 7% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Even with this year’s increase, enrollment remains nearly 15% lower than it had been prior to the emergence of COVID-19 in fall 2019.

Public four-year institutions also experienced increases in enrollment, though at a much lower rate (0.8%). New Jersey’s public colleges and universities had experienced less dramatic declines during the pandemic (1.9% and 3.9% in 2020 and 2021, respectively), and had actually increased in 2018 and 2019. Compared to fall 2019, undergraduate enrollment was down just 5% in fall 2022.

Private four-year institutions did not experience the same rebound as either category of public institutions in 2022. Undergraduate enrollment in this sector declined at a slightly faster rate, 3.7%, than previously (-2.1% and -3.1% in 2020 and 2021, respectively).

Graduate Enrollment. Total graduate enrollment in the Garden State accelerated at a much faster pace, 6.5%, in 2022. Enrollment at public four-year institutions grew fastest, 7.7%, while private four-year institutions grew enrollment 4.1% year-over-year.

The total number of enrolled graduate students at public and private four-year institutions (65,996) now exceeds pre-pandemic levels after falling 2.4% last year.

Demographics. Unfortunately, data related to student demographics is not currently available at the state level. This means we can’t yet tell whether these gains extend equally to men and women, or to various racial and ethnic groups in New Jersey.

The early indicators suggest good news for New Jersey though, especially relative to other nearby states. Total undergraduate enrollment continued to decline, for instance, in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

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