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Connecticut College Students —Younger and More Diverse But Still in Short Supply 

For A.M. Release: Friday, January 15, 1999

HARTFORD, Jan. 15 — Traditional 18 to 24 year-old college students are appearing in increasing numbers across Connecticut’s campuses but still not anywhere near their presence of a decade ago. This trend signals that while recent tuition freezes, campus rebuilding and hikes in financial aid are working, plenty of room exists at Connecticut colleges for more students — especially those native to the state.

A study released by the Department of Higher Education shows that Connecticut colleges and universities are enrolling nearly 15,000 fewer students than a decade ago. While smaller in number, the state’s student body is becoming younger and more diverse racially. Further, the number of Connecticut residents attending the state’s colleges has dropped steadily from 136,120 in 1989 to 118,043 this fall.

Commenting on the findings, Higher Education Commissioner Andrew G. De Rocco stated, "Clearly, a great deal of untapped potential exists at our colleges. Our carefully targeted investments to renovate campuses and expand technology and student aid are succeeding in attracting more undergraduates, particularly those from outside the state. Yet trends show a scarcity of young people and an even larger shortfall in adults in the state’s population well into the future.

"At least within Connecticut, we have a finite pool of students from which to draw," De Rocco noted. "Given this scenario, we should keep to our present strategy of focused investment while promoting our many strengths. Too many Connecticut youngsters are missing great college opportunities right in their own backyard."

The study’s conclusions are in line with state population estimates and with the Department’s enrollment projections. These show a decline in the number of traditional college-age students through the early 1990s, followed by a rise later in the decade to a peak about 2015 at a number still below 1990 levels before dropping off again.

Of equal concern, the number of adults, aged 25 to 44, is expected to fall dramatically between 1990 and 2010 — an issue of critical concern to the workforce and to colleges which have relied on persons from this age group to compensate for losses in younger students. The Department’s analysis is based on figures compiled from the U. S. Census, the state Office of Policy and Management, and the Department of Public Health.

Recent enrollment patterns confirm these projections. Since 1996, the number of traditional-aged college undergraduates has grown by 3,704 or 4.8 percent while their adult counterparts have fallen by 4,213 or 9.6 percent. As a result, the number of full-time undergraduates, who tend to be younger students, rose 3.4 percent over the past two years while the number of those attending part-time — mostly adults — fell 5.6 percent over the same period.

Final figures for this fall show little change in enrollment at public and independent colleges from a year ago. In fact, the statewide total of 154,229, a minor increase of 0.1 percent, would have dipped by the same percentage if not for a change in counting methods at Gibbs College in Norwalk.

At state-supported institutions, enrollment is steady with 94,299 students. Only the community-technical colleges show a decline of 2.4 percent due to fewer persons attending part-time. But compared to the peak year of 1989, enrollment across the public system is down 13.4 percent. Higher freshman enrollment at the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State University over the past two years appears to be slowing this trend.

Among the state’s independent colleges, counts also are stable with 59,135 students. The overall annual percentage gain of 1.6 percent at these institutions is due mostly to the addition of 339 previously unrecorded certificate students at Gibbs College. Without these students, counts would have grown only by 1.0 percent at these institutions.

This fall’s enrollment at the state’s independent colleges is virtually identical to the 1989 high of 59,497, despite some declines in the early 1990s. These colleges appear to have successfully countered the decreased availability of in-state undergraduates by recruiting more out-of-state and foreign students.

Minority enrollment at both public and independent institutions has grown each year throughout the 1990s. Final figures for this fall show 26,688 minorities attending Connecticut colleges and universities, up 3.2 percent from a year ago for the 15th consecutive increase. The number of minorities climbed 1.2 percent to 17,346 at public institutions, and 7.3 percent to 9,211 at independent institutions.

The Department of Higher Education’s report concludes that had minority students not increased in such numbers over the past decade, the total system’s 10-year enrollment decline of 8.9 percent would have been far worse.

For more information, contact Joseph Zikmund II, Chief Information Officer for the Department of Higher Education at (860)947-1833 or Connie Fraser.

Please see College Enrollment in Connecticut Through the 1990s and the summary of final 1998 headcount enrollment.


Contact: Connie Fraser
(860)947-1801


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