Colorado colleges shed fewer students in 2021 than national rate

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BOULDER, CO – AUGUST 18: Cloud striations form above Williams Village East dormitory at University of Colorado Boulder while incoming freshmen move in on August 18, 2020 in Boulder, Colorado. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many colleges and universities are instituting different strategies this fall semester, with most students living on campus attending all classes with remote instruction. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

DENVER (KDVR) — Some of Colorado’s colleges are seeing the same dip in enrollment as national higher education is seeing, but overall the state is avoiding a larger U.S. trend.

Fewer and fewer students are entering college campuses since the pandemic started. National college enrollment dropped 2.7% in the 2021 fall semester following a 2.5% yearly drop in enrollment in the fall of 2020, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Experts fear the decline speaks to less interest in higher education at the national level, but in Colorado, the trend is not as pronounced. Some universities have been seeing the same thing in the Centennial State as the U.S. The larger university systems, however, have managed to avoid dropping enrollment.

The state’s three largest university systems, combined, saw enrollment fall by 2.7% in the fall of 2020, but in 2021 enrollment only fell by 1%.

The University of Northern Colorado’s enrollment numbers have plummeted since the pandemic began. In the fall of 2020, student enrollment dropped from 12,930 to 11,460 – an 11% decline. The trend continued in 2021, when there were 1,100 fewer students than in 2020, another 10% drop.

Colorado State University fared better but still saw enrollment declines. The number of students in the fall 2020 semester was 1,200 fewer than in 2019, a 3% drop. The 2021 fall semester was more level, only falling around 200 students.

The University of Colorado, however, has come out ahead. Though it did have about 500 fewer students in the fall 2020 semester than in 2019, it has seen more students come back this year. It had 67,069 students enrolled in the fall of 2021, about as many enrolled in 2018.

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