Undergraduate Enrollments and Degrees Awarded

While we anxiously await (more us than you) the arrival of fall 2019 enrollment data from IPEDS, we took some time to overlay the past 20 years of undergraduate enrollments and degrees awarded. There has been a lot of conversation recently about the continuing decline in community college enrollments from places like Inside Higher Ed, Education Dive, and the National Student Clearinghouse, to name a few. At CDER, we have also reported on the declining enrollments at community colleges, especially since 2010.

Three housekeeping notes before we dive into some of the data. One, degrees awarded are reported to IPEDs for the period of July 1 through June 30, basically the fiscal year. This is important to note because our second point is that fall enrollments that are reported to IPEDS are after the awarded degree periods. For example, degrees awarded from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 released a year after the fall data has been released, in this case fall 2018. Finally, our third point is that we only evaluate degree-granting institutions and we do not change an institution’s sector as reported to IPEDS. This is a key point as 27 of Florida‘s 28 community colleges are considered to be four-year public institutions in IPEDS and not 2-year publics.

The above chart reflects the number of undergraduate enrollments and degrees awarded from 2000 to 2019. We see the bump and decline that occurs in these enrollments in fall 2010. Enrollments peaked at 18,350,350 and declined the following fall to 18,314,658. Enrollments in fall 2018 are at 16,804,372, just slightly higher than they were in fall 2008. It is difficult to see in this chart, the continued rise in bachelor’s degrees awarded and the leveling off associate degrees awarded.

In the 2011-2012 graduation data is where we see the highest number of associate degrees being awarded at 1,033,257. After this year, the number of associate degrees started to decline until 2017-18 where 1,027,690 were awarded, the highest number since 2011-12. Last year, 2018-19, saw an additional gain in awards over 2017-18, of 1.8%. At the bachelor’s level, the number of degrees awarded has been steadily growing since 1999. The largest gains in awards occurred in 2001-02 and 2011-12, at 4.8% and 4.5% respectively. Also visible in the chart is the slowing of the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded since 2013-14. Prior to this fiscal year, bachelor’s degrees were growing, on average, at about 3.5% a year. Since 2013-14, they are only growing , on average, 1.6% a year.

While we all acknowledge the number of undergraduates enrolling in higher education is important, so too is the number of those students that complete their degree. Even though undergraduate enrollments have been declining since fall 2010, the number of students achieving their associate and bachelor’s degrees, especially bachelor’s degrees, have continued to increase. We look forward to the upcoming fall 2019 enrollment data release so we can continue to share trends in both on-campus and online enrollments. Until then, be sure to check out our last report.