Preliminary Fall Enrollment in Texas

In our first blog posts in this series, we started exploring various factors related to the future of higher education enrollment in Texas. With the release of preliminary enrollment data by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) last week, we have our first look at fall 2022 enrollments across the state of Texas.

Comparing Current Enrollment to Pre-COVID Levels

So much of the conversation about higher education enrollment in recent academic years has been related to the effects of COVID-19. The preliminary fall 2022 data allow us to see multi-year enrollment trends in Texas after the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. The visualizations below show long-term enrollment trends by institution type, as well as enrollment changes from 2019 to 2022 for public universities in Texas. NOTE: All fall 2022 data are preliminary and may undergo adjustments in the coming weeks as the data are certified. 

Statewide Enrollment (2000 to 2022)

In general, two-year institutions, both in Texas and in the United States, have been affected more than four-year institutions by the effects of COVID-19. In the first visualization below, we can see enrollment in Texas broken-out by Public Universities and Public Community Colleges. The previous major event to have a widespread effect on higher education enrollment was the recession in 2007-2009, shaded in gray below. During this period, enrollment at community colleges in Texas increased by 17.6%, while enrollment at public universities increased by a more modest 7%. Between the recession of 2009 and just prior to the onset of the pandemic in 2019, public community college enrollment increased by another 11.7%, with public university enrollment increasing by almost 24% during that timespan. From 2000-2019, enrollment increased by 73.3% (from 431.9K to 748.5K) in Texas public community colleges and by 58.7% (from 414.6K to 658K) in Texas public universities.

What is evident from the visualization is the post-COVID enrollment cliff that has been experienced at community colleges. The one-year drop from fall 2019 to fall 2020 was more than 11%, while public university enrollment slightly increased by 1.4%. In fall 2020, enrollment at public universities in Texas exceeded enrollment at public community colleges for the first time in decades. After another drop in fall 2021, community college enrollment rebounded slightly to its fall 2022 total of just over 650K. Public university enrollment continued to increase in fall 2022, rising to 668K. 

Enrollment Change (2019 vs 2022)

The other visualizations focus on enrollment by public university from 2019 to 2022. The second tab in the visualization below shows the numeric change in enrollment for Texas public universities, while the third tab shows the percentage change in enrollment at these institutions from 2019 to 2022. The 2019 fall semester serves as a benchmark against which subsequent semesters can be compared. The universities are organized using the THECB-defined Peer Group designations shown down the left-hand side of the visualization. Hovering over each campus bar will show a pop-up tooltip that includes the year-by-year enrollment values for that campus.

  • The University of North Texas (UNT) has experienced the highest growth across the four fall semesters in the data. UNT had 39,192 enrolled in fall 2019 and has increased to 44,419 in the preliminary data for fall 2022. As shown in the third visualization, UNT’s growth represents a 13.3% increase, which is also the highest percentage growth among the 35 public universities in Texas.
  • Texas A&M University (TAMU, which also includes A&M at Galveston) expanded its enrollment to 69,485 in fall 2022, an increase of 3,982 from 65,503 in fall 2019, which is a 6.1% increase over the span of four semesters.
  • The largest decline from 2019 to 2022 was at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington). In 2019, UT Arlington had 42,863 enrolled, and the preliminary data show a decrease of almost 1,900 students to 40,990 in fall 2022. This change represents a 4.4% decrease.
  • Texas has seen a 1.5% increase in enrollment from 2019 to 2022 across all public universities, a trend which is counter to what is occurring in most states in the country since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


So What?

Across all higher education sectors in Texas (public two-year colleges, public universities, health-related institutions, and independent colleges and universities), Texas has seen a 4.2% decline in total enrollment in the past four fall semesters. In 2019, there were 1.56M students enrolled in Texas colleges and universities, as that number fell to 1.497M in fall 2020 before dropping to 1.49M in fall 2021. However, a rebound has occurred to where the preliminary data provided by THECB shows 1.495M students enrolled in Texas in fall 2022. While this one-year uptick is positive, the traditional college-going segment of the population (ages 18-24) in Texas has increased from an estimated 2.64M in 2011 to an estimated 2.85M in 2021. This begs the following questions…What proportion of the 18-24 year-old population in Texas is enrolled in Texas public colleges and universities? And how has that proportion changed over time? We will be answering these questions in the next blog post in a couple of weeks.

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