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Public Universities, CCs Likely to Benefit from Fall Shifts in Enrollment

The net impact of first-time fall enrollment for each state if it were to retain students in-state who had previously chosen to attend school out of state, based on 2018 fall enrollment.

The net impact of first-time fall enrollment for each state if it were to retain students in-state who had previously chosen to attend school out of state, based on 2018 fall enrollment. Source: Moody's Investors Service, National Center for Education Statistics

Public universities and community colleges are positioned to most benefit from changes in student enrollment in the fall. The reason for that, according to a new Moody's Investors Service "Sector Comment," is because the COVID-19 pandemic may force students to choose schools closer to home. The analysis relies on data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in its fall enrollment survey.

As the Moody's report noted, while a high share of students who come from out of state may show "the success of colleges and universities in recruiting from other states," it also "makes them vulnerable to shifts in migration patterns." That puts them "at greater risk of declining enrollment" should students choose their home state institutions as alternatives.

A handful of states are "better protected against such shifts," the report stated. Those are Alaska, Texas, New Jersey and California, all of which have nonresident students making up less than a tenth of student enrollment. However, another 70 percent of states have more than 20 percent of students coming from out of state, and it's in those states where the uncertainty lies.

For states where more than a third of students headed to other states to attend colleges — New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont — they may see "enrollment gains," should students stay in-state.

At least one state — New Jersey — is making a big play to get its students to stay home. Those efforts, which started before COVID-19 closed down campuses, include a transfer stream for students enrolled in out-of-state universities and financial aid and scholarship programs for students who choose to shift to one of 10 public four-year universities participating in the program. The report pointed out that if every fall first-timer in 2018 had stayed home, the state's first-time student enrollment would have jumped by 41 percent.

Community colleges are "likely to enjoy an uptick in fall enrollment," the report asserted, because they're more affordable. As Moody's analysts suggested, students may choose community college to save money, especially if the traditional on-campus experience of a four-year school isn't available to them.

The report is available to registered Moody's Investors Service subscribers.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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