The scripts on this page provide cosmetic enhancements only.

Home Site Map Contact Us

Board of Governors for Higher Education
Students & Parents Policy makers & Media Administrators & Researchers Business & Industry
Home | Site Map | Contact Us

 

College Enrollment in Connecticut Through the 1990s
January 1999

This report is intended to put enrollment statistics for 1998 into the context of:

    1. student attendance patterns over the past decade, and particularly the enrollment peaks of 1989 and 1990, and
    2. the state’s demographics and the enrollment projections for Connecticut higher education based on those demographics by the Department of Higher Education done one year ago.

In other words, where were we a decade ago; where are we now?

 

Enrollment Projections

In fall 1997, the Department of Higher Education did a series of enrollment projections for Connecticut’s public colleges and universities out to the year 2020. Published as part of the Department’s report titled "The Looming Financial Crisis Facing Connecticut Public Higher Education," these projections were based on official state population projections done by the state's Office of Policy and Management (OPM) in 1995. Using four different methodologies, this report sought to define the likely limits — both high and low — to enrollments in Connecticut's public higher education institutions over the next two-and-a-half decades.

Three distinct population trends make up the demographic forces most likely to influence collegiate enrollments in Connecticut during the projection period:

    1. The numbers of traditional college-age persons (18 to 24) were expected to continue to decline through the early 1990s, begin to rise later in the decade, peak about 2015 at a number still below its 1990 level, and finally turn down again after 2015.
    2. The numbers of adults or older persons (25 to 44), who constitute the secondary pool of potential students for higher education, are expected to experience dramatic decline from 1990 through 2010 and then slowly to begin to climb through the second decade of the next century.
    3. The adult population 45 years of age and older, who to date represent a very small portion of collegiate enrollments, are projected to gain in numbers throughout the 30-year period from 1990 to 2020.

The four different enrollment projection methodologies, built on these population projections, produced four different sets of results. Yet from these the following conclusions were developed.

    1. Public system enrollment is likely to stay within the range of a low of about 90,000 and a high of approximately 110,000 over the course of the next 25 years.
    2. Public system enrollment will likely begin to turn up sometime in the late 1990s, continue to rise through 2010, and then turn downward again out through 2020.
    3. From 1995 through 2010, the number of traditional-age students (again, 18 to 24) should rise both absolutely and as a proportion of total public system enrollment while the absolute numbers and proportion of older students (25 and above) should decline.
    4. Institutions serving traditional-age students should do better over the next 15 years than colleges or universities enrolling large numbers of older students.

The original report recognized that several external factors, such as those listed below, also would affect enrollments in Connecticut's public colleges and universities throughout these coming years.

    1. If the participation rates of persons in various categories of the pool of potential college students should change, these enrollment projections could be seriously affected.
    2. If Connecticut public institutions of higher education recruit more (or fewer) out-of-state students, then the enrollment projections, based on Connecticut residents only, would change.
    3. If Connecticut colleges do a better (or worse) job of retaining students from year-to-year, the enrollment projections would be affected accordingly.
    4. If more (or fewer) students continue their education into post-graduate studies, total enrollment at Connecticut's public colleges would expect to change.

 

Updated Population Figures

The OPM population projections from which the Department of Higher Education made its projections of public system enrollment estimated the state's total population in 1995 to be 3,289,090 and projected 3,316,120 people in Connecticut in the year 2000. This past fall, however, the Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation of the Department of Public Health issued a new set of population estimates for Connecticut as of July 1, 1997. Using documented births and deaths and recorded changes in K-12 enrollments, Public Health estimated that Connecticut's population at the mid-point between 1995 and 2000 to be just 3,269,858, well below both the 1995 estimated figure and the year 2000 projected number from OPM. Similarly, the U.S. Census estimate of 3,274,069 Connecticut residents on July 1, 1998, was well below the OPM estimated and projected levels. In sum, at least through 1998, the population figures for Connecticut used by the Department of Higher Education to project public system enrollment were probably too high.

 

Total Enrollment through the 1990s

Total enrollment at all Connecticut colleges and universities (public and independent) peaked in 1989 at 169,132. As shown in Table 1, for eight consecutive years, enrollment declined to a low of 154,059 in 1997. This year (1998) total enrollment climbed to 154,229, up 170 students or +0.1%.

Table 1
Total Enrollment at Connecticut Colleges And Universities

Year Total
System*
Public
Institutions
Independent
Institutions

1989

169,132 108,757 59,497

1990

168,758 108,708 59,100

1991

166,158 106,374 58,860

1992

165,795 106,672 58,177

1993

162,367 104,302 57,135

1994

159,764 101,264 57,594

1995

157,518 99,341 57,315

1996

155,083 96,336 57,926

1997

154,059 95,041 58,188

1998

154,229 94,299 59,135

 Among independent institutions, enrollments declined from 1989 (59,497) through 1993 (57,135), became roughly steady for a couple of years, and have been increasing gradually since 1996. In 1998, enrollment at the independents stood at 59,135, up 1.6% over 1997 and 3.5% above the low in 1993.

In contrast to the independents, Connecticut public colleges and universities have shown an almost steady decline from 1989 (108,757) through to 1998 (94,299). The 1998 figure is down 0.8% from the preceding year and down a full 13.4% from its peak in 1989.

Given that all four of the methodologies used to project public system enrollment called for an enrollment increase from 1995 to the year 2000, the failure of the public system thus far to reverse the downward trend in total enrollments is a matter of real concern. Is this a product of the lower than originally estimated state population? Were the Department of Higher Education's projection methodologies too optimistic? Or is there a more fundamental, systemic problem with the capacity of Connecticut's public institutions of higher education to attract and retain students? These questions cannot be answered at this time, but either public system enrollment must begin to turn upward in the near future or the projections made by the Department of Higher Education in 1997 will have to be revised downward.

Age as a Factor in Connecticut Enrollment

If the varying patterns of Connecticut's demographics really are driving enrollment at the state's colleges and universities, then as the number of traditional college-age persons in Connecticut increases and the number of persons 25 to 44 years of age declines, this should be reflected in the ages of enrolled students. What has happened to the age distribution of undergraduate students during the 1990s?

As shown in Table 2, the undergraduate enrollment of persons less than 25 years of age (generally, the traditional college-age student) declined from 1989 through 1996, as the last of the so-called "demographic trough" passed through Connecticut. This was true both for Connecticut's publics and for all institutions of higher education in the state. In 1997 and 1998 the numbers of traditional college-age students enrolled as undergraduates in Connecticut higher education increased. These gains in traditional college-age students, though not dramatic, are both real and expected.

Table 2
Age Patterns of Undergraduate Students Enrolled at 
Connecticut Institutions of Higher Education

  All Institutions* Public Institutions
Under 25 25 or More % 25 or More Under 25 25 or More % 25 or More
1989 88,656 45,392 33.9% 57,125 35,132 38.1%
1990 88,027 45,644 34.1 56,972 35,633 38.5
1991 85,367 45,771 34.9 55,273 35,282 39.0
1992 83,850 47,533 36.2 54,227 36,784 40.4
1993 80,828 47,307 36.9 51,649 37,006 41.7
1994 79,303 46,416 36.9 49,363 36,335 42.4
1995 78,363 45,515 36.7 47,769 35,804 42.8
1996 77,835 43,718 36.0 46,601 34,162 42.3
1997 78,735 42,044 34.8 47,027 32,969 41.2
1998 81,539 39,505 32.6 48,926 30,698 38.6

*All Institutions includes the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

At the same time, the numbers of older undergraduate students (25 years or more) now have begun to decline rather significantly. The total number of older undergraduate students peaked in 1992 (47,533) for the system as a whole and in 1993 (37,006) for the state's public colleges and universities. After these peak years, the enrollment of older students has consistently declined, again following the state's demographic patterns quite closely.

Since 1996, when the number of traditional age undergraduate students was at its lowest point, the number of these students less than 25 years of age has increased by 2,325 or 5.0% at Connecticut's public institutions of higher education. During the same time, the number of undergraduate students 25 or older has declined by 3,464 or 10.1%. Thus, despite the gradually increasing numbers of traditional age undergraduate students enrolled at Connecticut's public institutions of higher education, overall public system enrollment continues to fall. 

The Public System Constituent Units

The University of Connecticut

The enrollment patterns of the University of Connecticut (UConn) closely and predictably follow Connecticut demographic trends (see Table 3).

Table 3
Enrollment at the University of Connecticut

  Storrs
Undergraduates
Branch
Undergraduates
Graduate &
First-Professional
1989 13,776 4,463 7,887
1990 13,619 4,380 7,981
1991 13,178 4,072 8,061
1992 12,530 3,877 8,181
1993 11,919 3,573 8,157
1994 11,405 3,314 8,245
1995 11,365 3,302 8,306
1996 11,372 3,082 7,860
1997 11,437 2,945 7,365
1998 11,715 3,140 7,044

Undergraduate enrollment at the Storrs Campus, which is primarily traditional age students, fell for six consecutive years from 1990 through 1995. As the number of traditional college-age persons in Connecticut rose in the mid-1990s, so did Storrs’ undergraduate enrollment. In 1998 there were 11,715 undergraduate students at Storrs, up 2.4% from 1997 and up 3.1% from the low point in 1995.

Undergraduate enrollment at UConn’s branch campuses, across the board, tended to follow the pattern of Storrs, with a two-year lag. At the branch campuses undergraduate enrollment declined from 1990 through 1997 and then turned up in 1998. By contrast, graduate and first-professional enrollment at UConn generally grew through the early 1990s up to 1995. Since 1995 post-graduate enrollment has declined dramatically from 8,306 in 1995 to just 7,044 in 1998. This, too, tends to follow the decline in the number of older (25 to 44) persons living in Connecticut which began in the early 1990s.

In 1989, UConn enrolled 2,294 undergraduates 25 years of age or older; in 1995 there were 2,268. In 1998 there were 1,520 such students, a decline of 33.0% in the last three years.

To what extent do out-of-state and foreign students supplement UConn’s enrollment of local students? As seen in Table 4 on the next page, from 1991 through 1997, the total number of out-of-state and foreign students varied from 3,713 (1997) to 3,764 (1994). While the number of out-of-state and foreign undergraduates attracted to UConn in 1998 was up 8.7% (from 1,837 in 1997 to 1,996 in 1998), the number of non-Connecticut graduate and first-professional students dropped 15.4% (1,876 in 1997 to 1,587 in 1998). Thus, the total number of out-of-state and foreign students at UConn in 1998 stood at its lowest level (3,583) in at least a decade.

 

Table 4
Out-of-State and Foreign Students Enrolled
At the University of Connecticut

  Undergraduates Graduate &
First-Professional
Total
1989 1,850 1,989 3,839
1990 1,944 2,148 4,092
1991 1,908 1,755 3,663
1992 1,960 1,794 3,754
1993 1,915 1,846 3,761
1994 1,876 1,888 3,764
1995 1,841 1,894 3,735
1996 1,843 1,890 3,733
1997 1,837 1,876 3,713
1998 1,996 1,587 3,583

Connecticut State University

Undergraduate enrollment at the four Connecticut State Universities (CSU), like those at UConn, generally have followed the patterns of the state's demography (see Table 5).

Table 5
Enrollment at Connecticut State University

  Undergraduates
Under 25 Years
Undergraduates
25 or Older
Graduate Total
1989 21,336 8,412 8,613 38,361
1990 21,474 8,551 8,122 38,147
1991 20,651 8,866 7,758 37,275
1992 19,823 9,126 7,480 36,429
1993 18,926 8,695 7,490 35,111
1994 18,129 8,267 7,321 33,717
1995 17,738 8,340 7,453 33,540
1996 17,435 7,834 7,713 32,982
1997 17,671 7,617 7,680 32,968
1998 18,479 6,936 7,631 33,046

At CSU, the number of undergraduates under 25 years of age declined from 1990 (21,474) through 1996 (17,435) and has climbed in each of the last two years (17,671 in 1997 and 18,479 in 1998). By contrast, the number of older undergraduates (25 and above) peaked in 1992 (9,126) and generally has gone down since then. In 1998 there were just 6,936 (down 24.0% since 1992) such students.

Although the number of graduate students at the CSU campuses is down in 1998 (7,631) from 1989 (8,613), graduate enrollment at these institutions has been quite steady during the period 1991 through 1998.

 

New, Freshman Students at Both UConn and CSU

One important measure of where enrollment may be going is the trend in numbers of new freshman students at particular institutions. The longer term impact of the total number of new freshmen will be affected by institutional retention rates, and numbers of new freshmen have little or no consequence on graduate enrollment. Still, without more new freshmen it is very hard for an institution to grow.

These numbers dropped dramatically at both UConn and at CSU during the early 1990s. In 1989 there were a total of 8,094 new freshmen at these five, Connecticut public universities; in 1994 there were only 5,751. Beginning in 1995 these numbers turned upward at both UConn and at CSU. This past fall (1998) UConn had 3,227 new freshmen, up 116 over their total in 1989, and CSU had 4,076. The CSU number is the highest it has been in eight years, but is still 907 short of 1989. In total, as seen in Table 6, there were 7,303 new freshmen at the five public universities in 1998, down 791 below the level in 1989.

Table 6
New, First-Time Freshmen at the University of Connecticut
And at Connecticut State University

  University of
Connecticut
Connecticut State
University
Total
1989 3,111 4,983 8,094
1990 3,038 4,464 7,502
1991 2,921 3,070 5,991
1992 2,875 3,549 6,424
1993 2,742 3,089 5,831
1994 2,514 3,237 5,751
1995 2,691 3,210 5,901
1996 2,774 3,416 6,190
1997 2,761 3,802 6,563
1998 3,227 4,076 7,303

Community-Technical Colleges

Demographics and enrollments do not link quite as closely at the Community-Technical Colleges (CTCs) as they do at UConn and CSU. Perhaps this relates to the special occupational mission of the CTCs and the proposed connection between CTC enrollment and the state of the Connecticut economy.

Since 1989 enrollments of CTC students less than 25 years of age have varied up and down in a relatively unpatterned manner. On the other hand, CTC enrollment of older students (those 25 or older) peaked in 1993 (26,069) and has declined every year since then. In 1998 there were 22,240 such students enrolled at these 12 colleges (see Table 7 on the next page).

 

Table 7
Enrollment at the Community-Technical Colleges

  Students
Under 25
Students
25 or Older
Total
1989 19,844 24,426 44,270
1990 19,769 24,812 44,581
1991 19,632 24,156 43,788
1992 20,227 25,428 45,655
1993 19,473 26,069 45,542
1994 18,745 25,838 44,583
1995 17,632 25,196 42,828
1996 16,850 24,190 41,040
1997 16,772 23,554 40,326
1998 17,114 22,240 39,354

 

The Independents

Interpreting the enrollment patterns of Connecticut’s independent institutions of higher education is more complex than for the publics because the national independents (Connecticut College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University) tend to draw the bulk of their enrollments from out-of-state while the regional and two-year independents attract primarily Connecticut residents. Connecticut demographics do not match the national demographic picture. Connecticut's population is older, and the number of younger persons in Connecticut makes up a distinctly smaller portion of the total population than is the case for the nation as a whole. Even so, the demographic forces at work in Connecticut and in different ways across the nation are reflected in the enrollment at Connecticut's independent colleges and universities, as seen in Table 8.

Table 8
Enrollment at Connecticut’s Independent Colleges
And Universities

  Undergraduates

Less than 25

Undergraduates

25 and Older

Graduate &

First-Professional

Total
1989 30,653 10,260 18,584 59,497
1990 30,118 9,997 18,985 59,100
1991 29,172 10,487 19,201 58,860
1992 28,678 10,748 18,751 58,177
1993 28,250 10,300 18,585 57,135
1994 29,035 10,080 18,479 57,594
1995 29,735 9,708 17,873 57,315
1996 30,419 9,550 17,957 57,926
1997 30,081 9,872 18,235 58,188
1998 31,822 8,803 18,510 59,135

 

Across all independents, the number of older (25+) undergraduates has declined rather consistently beginning in 1992 (10,748) and continuing through 1998 (8,803). By contrast, undergraduate enrollment of traditional age students (24 or younger) fell from 1989 (30,653) through 1993 (28,250) and generally has increased since. In 1998 there were 31,822 traditional age undergraduates at Connecticut's independent institutions of higher education.

In 1990, Connecticut's independents enrolled a total of 59,100 students. While these colleges and universities lost students during the early 1990s (the low was 57,135 in 1993), in 1998 they were back up to 59,135, virtually identical to 1990s level.

There were 136,147 Connecticut residents enrolled in Connecticut colleges and universities, both public and independents, in 1990. Since 1990 that number has steadily decreased (see Table 9). Whatever the reason — a smaller population pool to draw from, greater migration of Connecticut high school graduates to colleges in other states, a lower participation rate of Connecticut residents in higher education generally, or some combination of the three — in 1998 there were only 118,043 Connecticut residents attending college here in-state.

Table 9
In-State, Out-of-State, and Foreign Students
Enrolled at Connecticut Institutions
Of Higher Education

  Total Students
From Connecticut
Independents Publics
Students from
Connecticut
Out-of-State
& Foreign
Students from
Connecticut
Out-of-State
& Foreign
1989 136,120 34,438 25,065 101,624 7,133
1990 136,147 35,291 23,809 100,804 7,904
1991 133,991 34,859 24,001 99,056 7,318
1992 130,657 34,173 24,004 99,417 7,255
1993 130,363 33,081 24,054 97,218 7,084
1994 127,286 32,999 24,595 94,216 7,048
1995 124,199 32,002 25,313 92,132 7,209
1996 123,228 34,075 23,851 89,106 7,230
1997 118,938 30,895 27,293 87,988 7,053
1998 118,043 30,603 28,532 87,378 6,921

 

More than half of the students enrolled at Connecticut’s independent colleges and universities come from Connecticut. To that extent, these institutions are dependent on Connecticut demography just as the publics are. As the pool of potential college-going Connecticut residents contracted through the 1990s, so the enrollment of Connecticut residents at Connecticut independents also declined. In 1990 these schools enrolled 35,291 people from Connecticut; in 1998 it was 30,603.

At the same time, Connecticut independents throughout the 1990s have been more and more successful at bringing out-of-state and foreign students onto their campuses. In 1990 there were 23,809 non-Connecticut residents at the independents; in 1998 the number was 28,532. Because of these effective out-of-state recruitment efforts, the total enrollment at Connecticut's independents is higher in 1998 than it was in 1990. By contrast, out-of-state and foreign enrollment at Connecticut's public colleges and universities peaked in 1990 with 7,904. In 1998, the publics enrolled just 6,921 out-of-state and foreign students (see Table 9 on the previous page).

 

Minority Students

From the mid-1980’s on, minority enrollment in Connecticut higher education has risen each year. As seen in Table 10, 1998 was no exception. This year, 26,688 minority students enrolled in the state's colleges and universities, up 3.2% over 1997 and up 43.1% over 1989. What has been extraordinary about this trend is that it has come in the face of progressively lower overall enrollments. In other words, the general declines in the enrollment at Connecticut's colleges and universities would have been considerably worse if minority enrollments had not grown as they did. This is a significant accomplishment.

Table 10
Minority Enrollments in Connecticut Higher Education

  Total Minority Enrollment
1989 18,644
1990 19,572
1991 20,386
1992 22,177
1993 23,227
1994 24,450
1995 24,956
1996 25,191
1997 25,858
1998 26,688

 

Conclusions

When the Department of Higher Education made its projections of public system enrollment out to the year 2020, it did so based on a number of fundamental assumptions regarding the linkages between higher education enrollment in Connecticut and the demographics of the state. Virtually all of the enrollment data presented in the following summary of trends since 1989 confirm the soundness of those assumptions.

  • The total number of Connecticut residents enrolled in Connecticut institutions of higher education has steadily declined from 1989 through 1998.
  • The total number of traditional college-age students (18 to 24) enrolled as undergraduates at Connecticut's colleges and universities dropped successively through the early 1990s and now has turned upward, as predicted by the state's demographics.
  • The total number of older undergraduate students (25 years of age and up) peaked in the early 1990s and has been in serious decline since, as predicted by the state's demographics.
  • As a consequence of these demographic trends, the total number of new freshman enrollees at the University of Connecticut and at the four Connecticut State Universities declined through the early 1990s and now has turned upward, as the pool of available 18 to 24 year-olds in Connecticut has begun to expand.
  • The independent colleges and universities in Connecticut have been able to counter the decreased availability of in-state undergraduates by successfully recruiting more out-of-state and foreign students. The state’s public institutions have not.
  • Minority enrollment has grown yearly throughout the 1990s. Had minority enrollment not increased as it did, total system enrollment would have declined even further.

 

1/11/99


| Academic Program Inventory | Alternate Route to Certification | Colleges & Universities | Community Service | Education Information Center | Gear Up | News Releases & Reports | Private Occupational Schools | Related Links | Search Site | Statutes, Regulations & Licensing | Student Financial Aid | Veterans | *