HARTFORD, CT - Following three years of slowing growth in enrollment, the total number of students attending Connecticut’s public and private colleges edged down this fall, according to preliminary tallies compiled by the Office of Higher Education.
Based on figures reported by public and private colleges to the Office of Higher Education, statewide college enrollment this fall slipped by 897 students or 0.4 percent to 202,095 over last year’s total, signaling a halt in the annual record highs that have occurred since 2001. The slippage was due mostly to fewer numbers of students attending part-time both among undergraduates (down 1.8 percent) and graduate students (down 3.4 percent). Full-time enrollment, in contrast, held steady, up 0.2 percent among undergraduates, and 2.2 percent among graduate students.
Overall enrollment was up in the independent sector but down within the public sector. However, nearly all of the private sector increase was due to record growth at Post University (up 765 or 10.5 percent) – nearly all in online enrollment of part-time undergraduates – and at Sacred Heart University (up 549 or 8.5 percent). If not for these two schools, enrollment would have dipped 0.5 percent across the private colleges.
In addition to Post and Sacred Heart, other colleges enrolling record numbers of students were Gateway Community College (up 210 to 7,976), the University of New Haven (up 204 to 6,351), the University of Saint Joseph (up 115 to 2,640), Quinnipiac University (up 189 to 8,803), Goodwin College (up 71 to 3,388) and Holy Apostles College and Seminary (up 13 to 385).
“Enrollment growth has been levelling off for some time so this small dip is not unexpected,” stated Jane A. Ciarleglio, Executive Director of the Office of Higher Education. “Our colleges continue to attract healthy numbers of traditional-age students who tend to attend full-time. In comparison, part-time enrollments are more subject to changing economic conditions. Fewer part-time students may indicate that more adults, who usually take a limited number of courses, are finding jobs as Connecticut’s economy improves. That’s good news for the economy but a challenge for our colleges.”
Among the independents, enrollment rose at all types of colleges. At the four-year nationals (Connecticut College, Trinity, Wesleyan and Yale), numbers rose 0.8 percent, reflecting continuing growth in full-time students. At the regional non-profits, counts increased 1.5 percent driven by growth in full-time undergraduates at the University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University and the University of Bridgeport. Within the regional for-profit category, Post’s dramatic gains were offset by losses at the three other for-profits, one of which -- Sanford-Brown -- is closing and not accepting new students.
Within the public sector, enrollment at the University of Connecticut rose 0.7 percent to 30,256, just shy of its peak of 30,525 reached in 2011. At the ConnSCU system, enrollment at the four state universities was down 2.2 percent to 34,062, reflecting continued losses in the number of part-time graduate students, and variances in annual patterns since CSU’s peak enrollment of 38,361 posted in 1989. Enrollment at the community colleges fell 2.1 percent to 56,977, reflecting losses in both full-time enrollment (down 1.8 percent) and part-time enrollment (down 2.3 percent). Enrollment at these colleges peaked at 58,352 students in 2010. The community colleges remain the largest public higher education system in Connecticut and have been the fastest growing over the past decade.