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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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