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Have they priced themselves out of business? More Americans are skipping college

… Covid forced the issue, but it is more complex

What is driving students to avoid college after high school? The issue is complex, but the problem has colleges and universities taking steps to avoid a calamity.

The problem, however, is not just one related to higher education. Instead, it relates back to the fact that education has provided so much to people in the United States beyond the classroom.

That is a concern for businesses that cannot find enough qualified workers to fill their jobs. It is apparent in the health care field where qualified people must be brought in from other countries.

So, how dire is the problem?

Students have second thoughts

The reality is that college graduates earn more money than those who do not attend college. However, college is not for everyone. Students realize that before they sink tens of thousands of dollars into something, the should look at the return,

[H]undreds of thousands of young people came of age during the pandemic but didn’t go to college. Many have turned to hourly jobs or careers that don’t require a degree, while others have been deterred by high tuition and the prospect of student debt.

What first looked like a pandemic blip has turned into a crisis. Nationwide, undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines even after returning to in-person classes, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The slide in the college-going rate since 2018 is the steepest on record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists say the impact could be dire.

At worst, it could signal a new generation with little faith in the value of a college degree. At minimum, it appears those who passed on college during the pandemic are opting out for good. Predictions that they would enroll after a year or two haven’t borne out.

Collin Binkley, “Jaded with education, more Americans are

skipping college,” Associated Press, March 9, 2023

The decline started much earlier than the pandemic,

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center receives spring term enrollments on an annual basis, and from Spring 2011 to Spring 2017, there were 2.4 million fewer college students. In fact, in just the past two years, the center noted there were half a million fewer enrollees.

Terri Williams, “Why do fewer students attend college now?”

Decline in births

The slowdown in the birth rate that started as a result of the horrible recession of 2008 affected more than one generation.

The decline in births that began in the U.S. in 2008 has already been long and deep enough that it’s going to shape the country’s future in a big way.

This drop is not nearly as sharp or as deep (yet) as the one that followed the baby boom of the late 1940s to early 1960s. But it will change things, and the changes will become apparent first at educational institutions. The number of public-school kindergartners in the U.S. began falling in 2014, and that decline — offset modestly by immigration — will continue to work its way through the K-12 system in the coming years. By the second half of the 2020s, colleges and universities should start feeling it.

Justin Fox, “The Coming College Enrollment Bust,” Bloomberg, May 30, 2019

What are the reasons?

First, the economy has rebounded now, and that has changed matters. Students during a recession have no choice. Now, it is an open market if you want to work.

However, the major reason has to be financial. This is a major concern for young people,

The rising cost of college also contributes to the decline, although Dr. Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at California State University, admits that she has not noticed that fewer students attend college at her school. “Since I work at a state university that offers affordable education to a large proportion of ethnic minority and first generation students, I am not seeing this yet.” She explains, “This trend is also likely quite fluid and impacting institutions differentially with elite top tier institutions not experiencing this and affordable state universities seeing less of this too.”

However, Durvasula isn’t surprised that affordability would be a problem. “Four to six years is a long time to stall income generation for many people and to simultaneously be incurring debt.” As a result, she believes that affordability is critical and higher education is not within reach for many Americans.

So how can students and their families pay for college?

Terri Williams,

Has the worst passed?

Probably not, but some hope so. However, many feel that they educations have suffered because of the pandemic,

There’s some hope the worst has passed. The number of freshmen enrolling at U.S. colleges increased slightly from 2021 to 2022. But that figure, along with total college enrollment, remains far below pre-pandemic levels.

Amid the chaos of the pandemic, many students fell through the cracks, said Scott Campbell, executive director of Persist Nashville, a nonprofit that offers college coaching.

Some students fell behind academically and didn’t feel prepared for college. Others lost access to counselors and teachers who help navigate college applications and the complicated process of applying for federal student aid.

“Students feel like schools have let them down,” Campbell said.

Collin Binkley, AP, March 9, 2023

Many young men are opting for trade schools, which is a good move. However, their salaries will probably fall below a college graduate, but if they are happy, then it will be worth it.

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