College Enrollment is Up, But Not Where You Expect

Yesterday, the National Student Clearinghouse published their 2023 fall enrollment report. For the first time since the pandemic, enrollment had increased at higher education institutions. However, this increase has come from a very nontraditional source.

Although overall student enrollment had increased, new freshman enrollment had declined yet again in 2023 (as highlighted in this article by Axios).  This may seem contradictory, since traditionally, freshman enrollment is a leading indicator of future college or university enrollment.

What does this mean?

A clue to this came from our analysis of spring enrollment (as highlighted in our blog post in May) where dual-enrollment was driving a rebound in community college enrollment.  This trend has continued, meaning that student enrollment number growth has been driven by Non-Degree, Certificate, and Dual-Enrollment activity instead of traditional degree-seeking activity.

Although this provides is a ray of hope for the higher education industry, it doesn't mean that the industry has turned the tide.  The subtext of these statistics is that the bread-and-butter of higher education, degree-seeking enrollment, is still declining.  In other words, the number of students is increasing, but because these programs drive less course activity (and thereby tuition revenue), the number of credit hours and (tuition revenue) is still decreasing.

How to Adapt

All of this aligns with what we've seen at Mutara.  Those institutions who have recognized this are taking significant steps in capitalizing on nontraditional and non-degree enrollment.  This means that they are doing the following::

  1. They are making it easier for candidates to become dual-enrollment, non-degree, and certificate-seeking students.
  2. They are making it easier for current dual-enrollment, non-degree, and certificate-seeking students to become degree-seeking students.


I would like to use two of our most recent customers as examples of institutions identifying and strategically capitalizing on these trends.  One is the 8th-largest university in America, and the other is a large community college.

4-year Institution

We recently kicked off an implementation with Florida International University for all of their nontraditional admission candidates.  We will cover their specifics in a future article, but for the purposes of this topic, their initial priority for the implementation (aka phase 1) is for their non-degree and certificate enrollment.

As part of this project, we will reduce barriers for these candidates and make it easier for their admissions staff to process and admit applicants seeking shorter commitments.  Here are a couple of programs that are part of this phase:

Both of these programs have multi-day as well as multi-week offerings.

Community College

We're also about to kick off an implementation with a Florida community college with an extremely successful dual-enrollment program.  Although they will engage us to assist with all admissions candidates, their highest priority is to improve the conversion rate of their dual-enrollment students to degree-seeking students.

As part of this project, we will be providing a one-click admissions process for these candidates.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about how we might help your institution in a similar manner, we'd love to meet with you.

Schedule a Demo