EducationDeclining Community College Enrollment Drives Statewide Higher Education Trend

For the first time in at least 20 years, enrollment at four-year institutions has outpaced that of two-year institutions in Texas.
October 25, 2021
While more Texans are going to four-year general universities, some other institutions are currently facing lower enrollment since the pandemic’s outset. Enrollment in junior colleges and some health and medical schools has lagged in early 2021 compared to 2019.

According to a report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), two-year schools are serving fewer students now than in 2019. In fact, enrollment at two-year colleges is now below four-year universities for the first time in at least 20 years. Mostly driven by the drop in two-year students, statewide enrollment in higher education is down 4.2 percent overall since 2019.

Institution Type

From fall 2019 to fall 2021, enrollment at four-year universities increased by a modest 1.7 percent. Public two-year college enrollment decreased by 11.6 percent.

Private institutions experienced the same trend. Enrollment at private universities rose by about 1 percent and decreased by 6.5 percent at private junior colleges. However, Jacksonville College is the only private junior college included in the report, and the six-point enrollment decline amounts to 33 fewer new students.

The Texan Tumbler

Meanwhile, Texas State Technical Colleges have seen a remarkable boom. The trade school network has over 16,500 new students this year, a 20 percent increase from 2019. Despite these gains, the network’s enrollment growth is only a marginal bump in the statewide total.

THECB numbers also suggest a targeted decline among some schools in the medical field, though the schools included in this dataset account for relatively few students statewide.

Fewer students are seeking pharmacy degrees in Texas now than in 2019. Since the 2019 fall semester, state pharmacy schools have experienced a net loss of 111 new students, or a 7.7 percent decrease.

Out of all the health-related categories in the report, pharmacy schools are the only one to see an enrollment decline. Public medical, dental, and physical therapy schools all enrolled more students in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019.

The Baylor College of Medicine, the sole private general medical school in the state, also experienced a 6 percent decline in new medical students since 2019.


The drop in pharmacy school enrollment may be regional. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center accounts for the lion’s share of lost pharmacy students with an enrollment decline of 18.7 percent since 2019, or 116 students total.

Concurrently, the High Plains region was one of the seven regions in the state to see an overall enrollment decline. However, it was far from the bottom. The Upper Rio Grande region underwent the steepest drop in students attending college with a 4.6 percent drop in total enrollment. On the other end of the state, the Southeast region followed behind with a 2.4 percent decrease.

Despite every region in the state showing fewer students going to community college this year, three regions have more students going to college overall: the Gulf Coast, West Texas, and Upper East regions.


Enrollment rates for Hispanic, black, and white Texans all declined over the course of the pandemic. White Texans underwent the steepest decline with a 5.5 percent drop, followed by 4.9 percent for Hispanic students and 3.8 percent for black students. “Other groups” experienced a small 0.3 percent increase in enrollment since 2019.

While more women attend college in Texas than men, enrollment rates for women dropped steadily from 2019 to 2021. Men’s enrollment likewise dropped from 2019 to 2020 but has risen above 2020 levels this year while still remaining below pre-pandemic heights.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.