A downward spiral

Record declines in college enrollment

The grievances against many colleges in the United States are rising quickly in this new age of post-secondary education. There is no parking, the food is lackluster and to top it all off, classrooms are feeling more and more crowded. So knowing all of this, why are colleges not expanding their campuses? There could be several answers to this question; it ranges from COVID-19 interferences to record low enrollments. 

During the years 2019-2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic  first shocked the world, college enrollments hit a record low of just over 15 million in 2020. The highest enrollment recorded was in 2010 with over 18 million students enrolled in college. These numbers show that over the past decade college enrollment has been slowly declining. 

The drop off of people going to college is said to have future effects on society. People who do not obtain a bachelor’s degree are less likely to make as much money as their peers who have one. They are also more likely to get a divorce, as well as vote and volunteer less often. For society, college is an important factor in socio-economic status. 

“High school graduates who don’t go on to college are two and a half times more likely than those with bachelor’s degrees to receive Medicaid benefits, four times more likely to get food stamps and four times more likely to need public housing” the College Board states. 

Less college graduates is also a problem for the economy as there are less people to fill jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. 

The question that remains is: why? We know that college is the path out of low income households and the road to a better life, so why are we seeing record low enrollment rates? The simple answer is: it is not cheap. No matter where you go, in most cases a post-secondary education will have you reaching for your wallet. With inflation on the rise, college has become increasingly expensive, and what was once an opportunity to further your education, has become a luxury for most people. 

In order to keep the United States on track with competing countries, like China, for college graduate numbers, we will have to find a way to create more accessible forms of post-secondary education. This could mean finding a way to provide more financial aid to students in the form of scholarships or grants. College should not be a luxury for the few, it should be an equitable and accessible form of education for all.