The National Student Clearinghouse’s Research Center has just released the Fall 2019 estimated U.S. enrollments in postsecondary education, and for the nation as a whole, the news isn’t good. The NSC estimates that enrollment has decreased 1.3% from last year. Since the NSC began producing this analysis in 2012, enrollments have dropped each year.

In the map above, states colored blue are ones which have seen their postsecondary enrollments increase since last year. Many of these “blue” states come as no surprise: the South and the West are regions that demographers tell us will see increases in college-bound high school students through 2025. (See esp. Grawe, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, 2018)

But take a look at New England! New Hampshire’s Fall enrollment estimates are up 3.4% year over year, which is unexpected. New England is one of the regions that demographers predict will be hardest-hit by the dearth of high school graduates. A second New England state, Rhode Island, also posts an increase here, of 0.3%. Not much, certainly, but then not a decline the likes of Massachusetts (-1.3%), Connecticut (-1.6%), Maine (-1.7%) or Vermont (-4.4%).

What’s the cause of NH (and to some extent RI) being New England outliers? It’s difficult to say with any certainty based on this particular study, which only looks at aggregate estimates of postsecondary enrollment. Once institutions begin releasing their official Fall enrollment counts, I’ll be looking at a few institutions in particular to help make sense of this finding:

  • First, the state’s public flagship, the University of New Hampshire (Durham);
  • Second, the community colleges, whose enrollments in upskilling programs would be included here and which may be playing a role;
  • Third, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), which has been growing exponentially for the past decade or more. Has SNHU gotten large enough to be exerting such significant influence on the state’s overall enrollment picture?

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