College enrollment numbers down nationwide

Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer

With the school year up and running, colleges and universities across the nation have begun to open next year’s application process for incoming freshmen and make necessary changes for current undergraduate students. This process will look different given the ongoing modifications brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. With many colleges and universities closing their doors early in the spring semester and others still fully online this fall, colleges nationwide have seen a decline in enrollment numbers compared to previous years.

According to an article from The Olympian, “Undergraduate enrollment has slipped 4% below what it was last year, and a jump in graduate enrollment seen in early fall has slumped to 2.7% percent. Researchers say these uncommon enrollment trends can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered college campuses earlier this year and has forced many to switch to remote learning.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing daily, it is hard for colleges to plan what next year will look like. It is even harder for potential students to form a coherent plan for the future when they don’t know what will happen a week from now. For current students, especially those who live out of state and pay out-of-state tuition, the move to virtual learning has significantly impacted their education and future. COVID-19 concerns are not the only reason colleges have been faced with declining enrollment statistics, although it seems to be the main one for incoming first-years.

Increased fees in room and board, meal plans, books, and general tuition have been a major source of declining enrollment. With inflation rates, it is hard on both the colleges and universities to maintain a reasonable price and battle added measures. It is even more of a challenge for students and families to adjust their budgets to accommodate this. 

According to The Change Leader, a higher education organization, “In 1971, it cost just $1,832 to enroll in a private college. In 2015, the average college tuition in the U.S. was $22,432.” These numbers will only continue to rise, and the young generation will not be enroute a familiar path when seeking higher education. 

The added impact of technology has also prompted more students to look for alternatives to traditional college education. Trade and skills programs are also being offered and students are taking interest in learning on-the-job training or seeking out necessary skills through alternative routes that can be completed in a fraction of the time. 

Society has also become more accepting of non-traditional forms of work and many students are skipping the college experience to start businesses, freelance, and break away from the traditional 9-to-5 job environment.

Because of these varied factors, it is estimated that by 2025, colleges will experience one of the most significant drops in enrollment ever. These numbers do not even factor in the current effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges and universities across the nation are fighting to adapt to these incoming changes, “shifting to online resources and events to boost college enrollment” with some schools even taking on the added task of accepting more students to combat the potential of less than normal enrollment numbers. This has certainly been the case for many colleges amid the current COVID-19 crisis as many students are opting to stay home and work fully online for the school year.

Colleges have already started making significant efforts to combat this prediction. In hopes of boosting enrollment in future years they are updating their campuses from modernized student buildings to apartment-like dorm rooms. Many universities have also created increased opportunities for students to earn scholarships to accommodate their situations.

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