BOSTON (AP) – Enrollment declines at many New England colleges during the pandemic are putting further pressure on financially struggling institutions.

The number of full-time graduate and undergraduate students plummeted by more than 20% this September compared with the previous year at more than two dozen colleges and universities across the region, according to the New England Commission of Higher Education, the regional accrediting agency.

The pandemic has hit community colleges and many of the students they serve particularly hard, the Boston Globe reports.

Many students are opting out because of remote learning or difficulty paying tuition because of job losses, and that will accelerate difficulties at institutions that were already struggling, the newspaper reported.

Another 50 colleges saw enrollments drop by between 10% and 20%, said Lawrence M. Schall, president of the accrediting agency.

The pandemic “will accelerate the financial pressures,” Schall said. “The schools that were weak coming in are going to be weaker coming out.”

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