Rising Costs and Sinking Interest; Colleges Record Ever-Lower Enrollment Rates

Students finding college less appealing 

By Logan Spurrier ‘22 

For many students growing up, the idea of going to college is drilled into their minds by those around them. It is touted as the next logical step in the chain. However, the high school graduates of today are finding college as the next step anything but logical.  

According to National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre, a non-profit that provides student reporting and data services to colleges and universities, higher education institutes saw 600,000 fewer enrolled students in 2021 than in the year prior. From a wider point of view, college enrollment has dropped an estimated 11% from 2011-2019.  

If college is the next “logical step,” why are so many choosing not to enroll? 

While some of this can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment rates have been dropping for decades. The ever rising astronomical costs of college is the cause that is most directly responsible for this decline. 

As per the National Center for Education Statistics, between the years 2008-2009 and 2018-2019, the average cost of tuition at public institution had risen by 28%. During only ten years, tuition for a 4-year, public institution rose from $16,000 to between $20,000-$21,000. For comparison, college tuition for the same institution in 1985-1986 would be $8,000, adjusted for inflation.  

This means that, for some, college is simply unaffordable. Many others are put off by the massive student debt resulting from taking out loans, which in and of itself has grown into a crisis.  

Plus, there are other issues at hand besides the costs. Many jobs provide better incentives in the short-term than the long-term benefits incentivized by colleges. 

For example, the average, median salary of a line-repair man was $81,000 a year. Only a high school diploma and 4 years of on-the-job training is required to reach this. 

To some students, those paths are much more appealing than spending those same four years in education for a job that only pays $40,000-$45,000 a year, if not less.  

Other students simply see the time expenditure of college to be wasteful and too long. A plethora of reasons exist as to why students are beginning to pursue options other than colleges. 

Now, the question one might ask is, “How will this impact us as a society in the future?” 

If changes are implemented, we may see tuition fees sink to reasonable levels while enrollment rates climb. However, if the trend continues, ever worsening labor shortages and rising prices. 

In the medical field, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that there will be a shortage of 122,000 physicians by 2033. Teacher shortages are already occurring in school districts across the nation, which is only predicted to get worse. The Engineering world has been having, and is predicted to have, skilled labor shortages.  

These are all fields that are essential to the world we live in. Yet should this trend of declining enrollment continue, serious consequences lay in store for them.  

Therefore, fresh from graduating with our diplomas, our generation, our peers, should strive to implement changes to the college program that will not only benefit us, but future generations after. 

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