Leaders at the Scottish Funding Council said there were 227,258 college students in 2015-16. This compares to 379,223 in 2007.
And although ministers met the target of providing at least 116,000 funded, full-time equivalent places in 2015-16, the total dropped from 119,023 in the previous year to 117,204.
However, a record 24,317 college students successfully completed higher education courses last year, achieving degrees, HNC and HND qualifications among others.
There was also a small rise in the number of people studying at college, increasing by 339 to 227,258 in 2015-16.
Higher and further education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said the figures gave “a great overview of the fantastic work being done in the college sector” and also highlighted areas where more work is needed.