Freshman enrollment dropped an astonishing 13 percent last year, and overall college enrollment sank 4 percent.
What accounts for this exodus? The COVID pandemic partly explains it. Colleges switched from classroom teaching to online instruction in the spring of 2020, which was decidedly inferior. Undoubtedly, many students have decided not to go back to college until the professors resume teaching face-to-face.
But COVID is only a partial explanation for the student-enrollment downturn. Cost is a huge factor. It now costs about $75,000 a year (including room and board) to attend a private liberal arts college--$300,000 to get a four-year degree.
Private schools have slashed freshman tuition by more than 50 percent to lure new students through the door, and almost all first-year private-college students now get some sort of discount.
But for most schools, that strategy has not been successful. Enrollments continue to drop.
But there is a third factor that helps explain plummeting college enrollment. Students have figured out that a four-year college degree is no guarantee of a good job--particularly a degree in liberal arts or the social sciences.
Many employers no longer require new employees to have a college degree, including Apple, Google, IBM, and Bank of America. Young people have discovered that a vocational-school certificate may lead to a better job than a four-year degree in gender studies.
For example, CNBC carried a story about a young person who left college to enroll in a 14-week coding boot camp, "If I knew then what I know now," the former college student explained, "I probably would have skipped college."
As a guy who spent 25 years as a college professor in the higher-education gulag, I'm glad to see college enrollment declining. Too many students ruin their lives by taking out student loans to get vacuous college degrees from institutions that don't teach students to think or solve problems.
Colleges have hired market firms and "enrollment management" administrators to attract warm bodies back into the classroom. But young people are beginning to wise up. Small liberal arts colleges, in particular, are struggling to survive as their student enrollment shrinks.
More and more young Americans have come to realize they can have a good life without going to college. Unfortunately, some college students don't figure that out until they have destroyed their financial future by taking out too many college loans.
|LSU students in a crowded classroom: Ain't we got fun!|