RELEASE: College Enrollment Declines Among Black Americans Preceded the COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data from academic years 2014-2015 through 2018-2019. The data reveal that, across all sectors, undergraduate enrollment at institutions of higher education has fallen by 1.25 million students, or 5 percentage points, in just five years. In addition, enrollment at America’s public colleges and universities dropped by 425,000 over five years. The data also reveal that, relative to their respective portions of the population, Black students saw a significant drop in enrollment at America’s public colleges—with 200,000 fewer enrolled in 2019—and Latinx students saw an increase in enrollment.

The pandemic stands to erode the gains that Latinx students have made in college access and exacerbate disparities among Black Americans. Congress, states, and institutions should take steps to address these trends or the futures of students of color may be at risk. To narrow racial disparities in college enrollment and support a more diverse generation of students, the report recommends:

  • Making a big federal investment in debt-free college
  • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant
  • Conducting equity audits to identify policies and procedures that colleges need to adjust
  • Conducting quantitative and qualitative work to better understand the Black enrollment decline
  • Adapting programs to meet the needs of Latinx students

Please click here to read “It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students” by Ben Miller.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202-741-6292.