From Adams to Salem, about 25,000 students are expected to show up on state college campuses located across Massachusetts to take in-person classes as early as the end of this month. That would signal nearly a 40 percent drop from 40,000 enrolled last fall, according to estimates put together by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

The nine colleges, including the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in Adams and Salem State University, expect the total number of students living in dorms this upcoming semester to top 11,000. Faculty and staff will push the total number of people on those campuses to 30,000. Bridgewater State, Worcester State and Framingham State are other schools in the system.

While state officials stress these figures are preliminary, they attribute the steep drop in enrollment to the pandemic and economic downturn.

“COVID-19 has really impacted the decision-making of students and their families,” said Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago. “They’re weighing, probably more than before, the costs and comparing the costs across different institutions.”

“Some of the colleges are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said.

At the same time, Santiago said lower enrollment might make it easier to safely resume in-person classes.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Santiago said. “If enrollment falls, it can precipitate a lot of other financial concerns.”

Over the past few months, some city and town leaders have urged colleges to keep all classes online to prevent transmission of the virus in their communities. Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok wants Boston University and Northeastern to shut down their physical campuses, citing the risk of thousands of students arriving from out of state.

Conversely, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll welcomes the reopening of Salem State, which is one of her city’s top employers.

“The vast majority of students that attend Salem State live in Massachusetts, so at least most of them will be coming from within our state or our region, which has fairly low counts, and we’re not seeing people from across the country or across the globe,” Driscoll said.

Salem State reports it’s expecting about 4,800 students on campus later this month – down 390, or 8 percent, from a year ago.

The University of Massachusetts system has not disclosed how many students are expected to be living and studying on its five campuses. UMass Boston has announced its courses will be online because many of its students take public transit to the harbor campus in Dorchester.

Some colleges are beginning to walk back their initial intentions to reopen. On Tuesday, Smith College in western Massachusetts said it will offer all fall semester courses remotely and students won’t return to campus. In Massachusetts, Smith joined Berklee College of Music and Simmons University in reversing course.

In a letter to the campus community, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said students, faculty and staff have “a civic duty to the communities in which we live and work.”

“By limiting the number of students and employees on campus, we will mitigate the potential exposure of many people to the virus – not only those connected to Smith, but also those living in the greater Northampton area,” McCartney said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, UMass Amherst, Boston University, Northeastern, Tufts University and Boston College still planned to offer some in-person classes and welcome students back to campus in a few weeks.

Brandeis University and other local colleges have been preparing to offer free COVID-19 testing, in partnership with Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute, but higher education observers predict many of these campuses will soon announce reversals too if infection rates do not decline.