Wisconsin colleges see smaller enrollment declines than neighboring states

While enrollment at Wisconsin’s public and private colleges declined last fall, the decrease has been more measured than has been recorded in all neighboring states, according to a report from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Data from Wisconsin colleges published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show statewide enrollment dropped by around 0.5%, or 1,118 students, during the fall semester. The year-over-year decline was far less notable than it was during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when enrollment fell by around 10,000 students or 3.3% between fall 2019 and fall 2020.

The center’s report shows undergraduate numbers grew by almost 1% across the state’s higher education sectors, while enrollment among graduate students fell by around 7.5%.

College enrollment has been declining in Wisconsin and across the U.S. over the past decade. Analysts have pointed to lower birthrates as a cause, and in Wisconsin, a smaller percentage of high school graduates have been enrolling at public universities since 2017.