Md. public colleges see enrollment declines, but there is some good news

Enrollment at Maryland’s public colleges and universities continued to decline again this fall.

In fall 2021, there were nearly 165,000 students enrolled throughout the state. This year, there are 163,200 students enrolled, about a 1% drop, though it is a number that is about 1,300 higher than had been originally expected.

But at the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents meeting earlier this month, optimism was also expressed.

“[For] the first time, full-time enrollment increased for the second year in a row,” noted Ellen Fish, who is a regent at USM. In fact, there are 668 more [full-time] students compared with last year, and that number has USM leaders hopeful.

“More freshmen now means more sophomores, more juniors in two years, more seniors in three years,” said Chad Muntz, assistant vice chancellor for institutional research, data and analytics.

“We’re also seeing some of our community colleges are having more freshmen students,” said Muntz. “This is important to us. We’ve seen a decline in Maryland community college transfers the last couple of years, and this is because they’ve also experienced the same first-time student decreases.”

The hope is that more of those students will transfer to four-year schools around the state. He noted that increases in unemployment rates also tend to correlate with higher enrollments.

Overall, only two schools have seen increased enrollment this year: University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The bigger problem is keeping them enrolled through graduation, even at a time when the number of students graduating is up, too. That’s been hardest for the state’s first-generation college students, who tend to go to the smaller, regional campuses. Money is often cited as a reason for dropping out.

“Recovery is slower than losses,” said Muntz. “It’s easy to lose students … but we don’t recover the same number of students next year.

“Our plans, the ones that have worked best, have been slow, intentional increases over time to overcome the enrollment losses,” he added.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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