- Executive Office of Education
- Department of Higher Education
Media Contact for New Department of Higher Education Data Shows First Boost to Massachusetts Undergraduate Enrollment in Nearly a Decade
Delaney Corcoran, Communications Director, Executive Office of Education
WORCESTER — Today, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education presented a first look at the state’s fall '23 public undergraduate enrollment data estimates to the Board of Higher Education during its meeting at Quinsigamond Community College, showing the first boost to undergraduate enrollment numbers after nearly a decade of enrollment declines. Most of the growth in enrollment across the Massachusetts public higher education system is attributed to a substantial increase in community college enrollment, as well as increased enrollment of first-time students across all public higher education.
“Our administration is thrilled to hear that our efforts to expand access to higher education are showing results,” said Governor Healey. “Expanding access to higher education is critical for connecting students with the skills that are in demand by employers today and setting them on a path toward success in their future careers. We are particularly excited to see a boost in enrollment at our 15 incredible community colleges following the launch of MassReconnect. We’re grateful for the partnership of the Legislature and our colleges and universities to expand these opportunities for our students.”
“Opening the doors for more students to access higher education puts them on a path to build meaningful careers, meets the workforce needs of our industries, and strengthens our state’s economy as a whole,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “As an alumna of one of our incredible state universities, it’s even more meaningful to see this rebound in enrollment across our entire public education system.”
This year, according to preliminary data, public undergraduate enrollment in Massachusetts is up nearly 3 percent from the prior fall, which is the first increase the state’s public higher education system has seen since the fall of 2013. In line with the national trend related to anticipated population and demographic changes and then exacerbated by the pandemic, Massachusetts has experienced nine years of undergraduate enrollment declines. Also in line with national data, this year’s estimated 3 percent boost represents a net increase of close to 4,000 undergraduate students across all three segments of the public higher education system, bringing the total to nearly 153,000 undergraduate students on their way toward earning their degree in Massachusetts.
Most of the public higher education system’s undergraduate growth this fall comes from a substantial enrollment increase at the community colleges, which gained over 5,000 undergraduate students, or added 8 percent to their enrollment in fall 2023. Among new community college students, categorized as either new first-time or new transfer students, the increase was even higher at an additional 12.2 percent. Every single one of Massachusetts’ 15 public community colleges showed some degree of enrollment growth.
“This enrollment data supports anecdotes that I've been hearing from students, faculty, staff, and families across the Commonwealth—students are already taking advantage of the historic new opportunities available to them under the Healey-Driscoll administration,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. “It’s great to see this turn of the tide in the enrollment at our institutions of public higher education, and wonderful to consider the new perspective, energy, and skills these additional students will bring to these institutions, their communities, and our state.”
At the nine state universities, undergraduate enrollment is down by only 192 students, or 0.6 percent, this fall, after five years of more significant declines. Additionally, new first-time student enrollment is up 3.5 percent at the state universities, which is a sign that students are making their way back onto college paths.
At the four UMass campuses, undergraduate enrollment is down by 1 percent from the prior fall, or 538 students. It should be noted, however, that year-over-year change is largely driven by small undergraduate enrollment declines at the largest, flagship campus of UMass Amherst, where enrollment has generally been growing steadily for 20 years. The other three UMass campuses (UMass Boston, UMass Lowell, and UMass Dartmouth) are showing increases in either overall undergraduate enrollment or new first-time undergraduate enrollment or both. This preliminary look at enrollment excludes graduate programs, of which UMass boasts many.
"Today's enrollment report is good news, but it only represents a first step. The Department remains committed to ensuring that all students who enroll in college complete their education,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega. “Postsecondary success remains the north star for the Department."
This preliminary fall data report allows only for a high-level summary of enrollment in the Commonwealth’s public higher education institutions by segment, institution, and student type. At the end of the fall term, institutions will submit detailed enrollment data to the Department of Higher Education, allowing for confirmation or update of the preliminary data, as well as a comprehensive look at aggregate data related to program choice, race and ethnicity, gender, age, and many other dimensions. In early 2024, the Department will be able to share more information on the impact of MassReconnect and other new programs to enrollment.
This year, Governor Healey’s administration and the Massachusetts legislature have made historic expansions to financial aid, increasing funds available to students by more than a third, and delivered new programming to expand access and affordability in public higher education. A hallmark proposal from Governor Healey invested $20 million in MassReconnect, a new program making community college free for Massachusetts residents aged 25 and older and awarded $100,000 to each of Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges to build student awareness and support the quick implementation of the program. The budget also included an additional $18 million in community college nursing scholarships and program support, as well as $25 million in financial aid for students pursuing in-demand careers.
Just last month, Governor Healey also announced her administration’s new nearly $62 million proposal to expand financial aid at Massachusetts public institutions of higher education, which will cover the full cost of tuition and fees for Pell Grant-eligible students at community college, state universities, and UMass. The MassGrant Plus Financial Aid program expansion also extended financial aid eligibility to part-time Pell Grant eligible students and reduced the cost of public higher education for qualifying middle-income students, defined as those whose families earn between $73,000 and $100,000 annually in adjusted gross income.
The full data report can be found here.