Student Migration

As we patiently await the release of fall 2019 enrollment data from IPEDS, we received a glimmer of data from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) in late December 2020. We utilized their data to better understand the enrollment migration of students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses. Before we go any further with our analysis of the data it is important to remember two things: 1) NC-SARA only reports enrollments in Exclusively Distance Education Courses, as defined by IPEDS; and 2) California does not participate.

In fall 2018, there were 3,290,928 students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses at degree-granting institutions, according to our analysis of the IPEDS data. For fall 2019, NC-SARA is reporting 3,016,445 students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses. This should not be considered as a decline as the NC-SARA data only represents “44.3% of the total number of institutions”. The full NC-SARA report can be found here and is worth reading and utilizing for your distance education planning purposes.

For our analysis, we want to focus on one aspect of the NC-SARA data: enrollment migration of students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses. NC-SARA requires institutions to report the residence of students enrolled in exclusively distance education, in part, because NC-SARA is focused on “distance education across state lines”. Utilizing the NC-SARA data table, we created our own analysis to reflect the percentage of a states’ residents enrolled in higher education institutions in the same state.

Chart by Visualizer

The map above reflects the number of a states’ residents enrolled in exclusively distance education courses across all states and the percentage of those residents that are enrolled in-state. For example, Montana has 8,330 residents enrolled in exclusively distance education courses but only 35.6% of those residents are enrolled in a Montana higher education institution. In other words, Montana is exporting 64.4% of their distance education enrollments; 5,361 residents. The largest exporter is the District of Columbia (DC), where only 19.3% of residents are enrolled in a DC institution. The state with the least number of residents enrolling outside of the state is Nebraska, with 74.7% of the residents remaining in the state for their exclusively distance education courses.

With all of the data collected and analyzed with regard to exclusively distance education courses, we feel the residence of students is an important component. While every institution is unique in their enrollment goals and objectives, understanding how a states’ residents enroll is an important enrollment management data point.