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Enrollment at New York's public colleges, universities declined last year, new data shows

SUNY Chancellor John B King at Binghamton University
Vaughn Golden
SUNY Chancellor John King at Binghamton University. College and universities in the State University of New York system have seen an overall decline in undergraduate enrollment since last year.

Nationwide, college enrollment is slowly recovering after pandemic-related declines. But that’s largely not been the case for New York’s public colleges and universities.

Statewide, community colleges suffered the greatest hit to enrollment. Even before COVID-19, enrollment was declining at community colleges.

That decline has only continued in the years since 2020, according to new data released last week from the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks higher education enrollment trends.

That lag has been a point of concern for SUNY’s new chancellor, John King, who made a visit to Binghamton University last month.

"Nationally, enrollment has been a challenge for community colleges," King said. "You have the conflation of a number of streams. One is a smaller number of high school graduates. The other is a booming economy where unemployment is very low. And so people are making the choice of work over community college."

New York’s four-year public institutions fared a little better, but they also saw declines in undergraduate enrollment since 2021. Between all campuses, SUNY's four-year institutions lost about 15,000 undergraduate students in 2022.

Graduate enrollment is a different story. New York saw the greatest percent increase in its graduate student enrollment compared to the rest of the northeast — though most of those gains benefited private colleges.

New York’s private colleges and universities seem to have fully recovered from pandemic-related declines — both on the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Private university students make up the largest share of New York’s higher-ed population, and those numbers continue to climb.