Press Releases

NC-SARA Previews New Distance Education Enrollment Data from Fall 2020

Updated by on Wed, 09/15/2021 - 13:00
Press Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                           CONTACT
September 15, 2021                                                                 

NC-SARA Previews New Distance Education Enrollment Data from Fall 2020
“Sneak Peek” data confirms dramatic increase in distance education enrollments and signals possible permanent shift in learning modality for some institutions

BOULDER, CO – The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) today released a sneak peek of fall 2020 enrollment data that provides an early look into the latest numbers and distance education trends among 2,201 SARA-participating institutions. The data serves as a preview for NC-SARA’s 6th annual distance education enrollment report and dataset, slated for release next month.

NC-SARA President and CEO Dr. Lori Williams said, “As we expected, distance education enrollments roughly doubled as institutions turned to emergency remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic last fall. However, we also learned, based on surveying SARA-participating institutions, that a large swath of colleges and universities plan to continue offering online programs for the foreseeable future, indicating distance education may be a much more popular and prevalent modality from now on.”

According to the data sneak peek, which analyzes data from Fall 2020, nearly 6 million students nationwide were enrolled exclusively in distance education at 2,201 SARA participating institutions – a 93% increase over Fall 2019 enrollments. View the sneak peek here.

Other key findings from the data preview include:

  • Public nonprofit institutions had the largest increase in postsecondary distance education enrollments in 2020, increasing by 144% over 2019, followed by tribal institutions (up 107%), private non-profit institutions (up 47%), and private for-profit institutions (up 17%).
  • According to a voluntary survey of SARA-participating institutions, 85% of respondents reported moving courses to emergency remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; of the 15% of respondents that did not move classes online, the majority were small private nonprofit institutions or institutions that already offered their programs in this format. (Note: The voluntary survey was delivered to all 2,201 SARA-participating institutions and had a response rate of 32%.)
  • Nearly two-thirds (59%) of respondents plan to continue offering some or all of their emergency remote learning offerings via distance education after the pandemic is over.

On October 20, 2021, NC-SARA will officially release the full data set in new interactive dashboards, the data report, and analysis, and will also host a webinar at 2pm ET featuring remarks from Dr. Williams and insights from the NC-SARA research team on the full report. Collectively, these findings paint a picture of SARA enrollments and placements in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic disruption, and can provide insights into potential future trends across states and institutional types. Click here to register for the October 20 webinar.

To learn more about NC-SARA and the upcoming annual distance education enrollment report, click here.

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The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is a voluntary, interstate reciprocal approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB and WICHE) and coordinated by NC-SARA. States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states, and better resolution of student complaints.