Number of U.S. colleges and universities that award federal financial aid fell by 5.6 percent in 2018-19, to lowest mark in two decades.
Higher education enrollments have been falling for years, a well-documented outcome that can be attributed to some combination of a strong U.S. economy, changes in birth rates and, perhaps, growing doubts about the value of a college degree.
Another decline is also unfolding — this one attributable to a mix of economic and political forces: the number of colleges and universities in the United States is at its lowest ebb since at least 1998.
Data released by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics Friday included statistics on a range of topics, including total head count of enrolled students through 2017-18 and the number of colleges and universities in the most recent academic year, 2018-19.
The enrollment data confirm what most college officials who’ve been paying attention already know: that the number of people enrolled in U.S. colleges has tumbled since the recession, dropping from a total head-count peak of 29.5 million in 2010-11 to 26.4 million in 2017-18.