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Report: Fewer students enrolling in college

A high school student attends her graduation ceremony at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J., in July 2020. Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig

Report: Fewer students enrolling in college

American colleges are short roughly 938,000 students compared with fall 2019, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) report released Thursday. Total undergraduate enrollment in fall 2021 declined by just over 3 percent compared with the year before, and the nation’s 2021 freshman class was 9.2 percent smaller compared with fall 2019, according to the NSCRC. The dip represents the largest two-year decrease for higher education in 50 years.

What changed? Students with spotty internet have had trouble accessing online learning, making learning difficult during the pandemic. Hands-on trade programs at two-year colleges were difficult to translate into online learning, and some students entered the workforce instead. Some experts say the job market is siphoning students away from education, as well. Would-be students are able to work for higher wages with less education because workers are in short supply. NSCRC Executive Director Doug Shapiro says students are questioning the value of college, and the Educational Credit Management Corporation found that interest in a four-year degree fell by 28 percent since May 2020.

Dig deeper: Read Lauren Dunn’s report in Schooled on how the pandemic is driving interest in skilled trades.

Mary Muncy

Mary Muncy is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and a WORLD Digital intern.


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The author is african-american. Will Alexander


I would never send my kid to pretty much ANY uni these days.
It seems to come down to how to learn to be a liberal.
They even have terrorists (anarchists) teaching.


How many people were born in 2003 versus 2002? Does that difference explain the enrollment decline?


The difference from one year to the next is not significant, but the number of births per 1,000 was averaging 15.1 from 1990 to 1998, then 14.1 from 2000 to 2009 and 12.3 from 2010-2019. So a significant downward trend for the last 30 years. At that rate of decline, if it continued, the number of births would be down to zero by 2100! That won't happen, but this decline is a serious problem and very disturbing.


What about the pandemic? Whether fear of Covid, fear of vax mandates, fear of endless mitigation efforts(masks, social distancing, online classes, quarantining, etc), I would not have wanted to spend that kind of money (or get into debt) for that kind of living situation unless I absolutely had to.