Universities more fixated on leftwing politics over academics may rue the day their focus shifted so dramatically, given that declines in college enrollment have continued into 2022, long after campuses began normalizing operations again.
However, in light of rising costs of living and mounting student debt, not to mention highly unfavorable press coverage of intolerant faculty, many have started to question the value of a college degree in the long run.
These doubts are reflected in the total college enrollment figures for the spring, accounting for both undergraduate and graduate students. The total enrollment for both groups declined to 16.2 million students, which represents a 4.1 percent decrease relative to the prior year.
Last spring also witnessed a drop in students as well, which means that institutions of higher education have experienced an unexpected 1.3 million decline in student enrollment since the notorious Spring 2020 semester, when COVID restrictions set in, shuttering many campuses for months on end.
The vast majority of the declines in enrollment this spring can be attributed to drops in undergraduate enrollment, which have fallen by more than 662,000 students since the Spring 2021 semester.
As a result of two years in a row of declined enrollment, the total number of undergraduate university students in the United States is 9.4 percent smaller relative to the pre-pandemic days.
According to NSCRC Executive Director Dr. Doug Shapiro, “I thought we would start to see some of the declines begin to shrink a bit this term,” adding that he was “surprised” that enrollment figures have continued to decline.
Shapiro also noted that many Americans may well be starting to question “the value of college,” especially relative to “student debt and paying for college and potential labor market returns.”
Recent high school graduates are also slowing transition to college, with only 52.8 percent of students going directly from high school to college, relative to 63.8 percent in 2017.