3 Things New Federal Data Reveal About How Colleges Fared During the Pandemic

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Newly released data by the National Center for Education Statistics provides a highly anticipated look at how the coronavirus upended colleges’ enrollment, staffing, and finances during the past academic year.

The data underscore what has trickled out about institutions over the last 18 months: indicators of plummeting enrollment with warning signs for equity, fears of colleges’ faltering finances, and signs of their shrinking academic work forces. The new federal data are also notable because they reveal how these trends affected specific colleges.

The new data, some of which is for the 2020 fiscal year and some for fall 2020 — the first full semester after the pandemic began — is preliminary and was released “as an exception,” because of the “high level of interest” in how the coronavirus affected higher education, according to a news release from the Institute of Education Sciences, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Education.

As colleges begin another academic year under the specter of the pandemic, here are three takeaways from the data: