CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the national economy recovers, enrollment in West Virginia's colleges is declining -- but current enrollment levels in the state are still better than they were before the surge that came with the recession.
Total enrollment in the state's public institutions, including four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges, decreased by nearly 3 percent from Spring 2012 to Spring 2013, according to state Higher Education Policy Commission data.
Those numbers mirror a nationwide report, released by National Student Clearinghouse, which shows the first significant decline in the college enrollment since the 1990s.
Total enrollment across the country decreased by 2.3 percent from Spring 2012 to Spring 2013, according to the report. West Virginia's decline over that period was 2.7 percent.
West Virginia, like the rest of the country, saw a boom in college enrollment when the recession hit, as more and more young people went to school and avoided a poor job market.
From 2007 to 2008, college enrollment in the state increased by about 25 percent.
"We expect enrollment to surge during an economic downturn, which is what we saw both nationally and here in West Virginia in recent years," said Paul Hill, chancellor for the HEPC. "Our current enrollment numbers in the state well surpass those prior to the recession -- a good indicator that basic demand for higher education has not waned."
After the influx in 2008, when about 66,800 students were attending a public four-year college in the state, enrollment continued to increase until 2012, when it dropped for the first time in years.
About 66,430 students attended a four-year college in the fall 2012 semester, with about 63,840 attending in the spring 2013 semester.
During the early 2000s, enrollment hovered around 50,000.