Enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities has sharply declined over the last decade, but does that mean schools are seeing less revenue from tuition?

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly accelerated the enrollment decline trend, the crisis has been going on for years.

Thanks to skyrocketing tuition costs that have drastically outpaced inflation, many young people have sought out alternatives to the traditional college experience that might be more affordable and better suited to their needs.

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The rise in online education, coding boot camps, and other options has given students more choices when it comes to attaining higher education.

But here’s the thing — our analysis found that even though college enrollment has dropped by a whopping 15.3% since 2012, colleges and universities are still raking in 2.54% more in total revenue from students paying tuition.

By the Numbers

us college enrollment vs tuition revenue

According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), in fall 2012, total enrollment across all two and four-year universities totaled 20.2 million students. Fast forward 10 years and early estimates for the fall 2022 semester show that number has plummeted to 17.1 million students — a loss of 3.1 million enrolled individuals over the course of a decade.

Other Interesting Data:

• College enrollment is down 3.1 million students over the last decade

• Total annual revenue for US colleges from tuition and fees has increased by at least $6.9 billion over the last decade

• In 2022, community college tuition only rose a bit to $3,860 per year, for a total of $17.9 billion in tuition revenue (4.6 million students). It’s worth noting that two-year colleges are the only type of school to lose tuition revenue over the last decade.

• In 2022, public university tuition at four-year schools rose to $10,940 per year, for a total of at least $83.6 billion in tuition revenue (7.6 million students).

• In 2022, tuition for four-year private universities increased to $39,400 per year, for a total of $175 billion in tuition revenue (4.4. million students).