Student Carrying Books - Is America’s Love Affair with College Fading Away

Is America’s Love Affair with College Fading Away?

Updated enrollment figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that college enrollment levels are continuing to fall

Data just released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that enrollment in American colleges and universities is continuing to fall:

  • Undergraduate enrollment in American colleges fell by 3.1 percent in the year preceding fall 2021, a loss of 465,300 students.
  • Enrollment losses show a two-year decline of 5.1 percent or a loss of 938,000 students since fall 2019.
  • The largest numerical drops occurred at public four-year institutions, where 251,400 students (or 3.8% of total enrollment) were lost. But the steepest percentage decline occurred at private for-profit four-year colleges, which lost 65,600 students (or 11.1% of enrollment.)

Which College Majors Are Losing the Most Students?

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment in each of the five largest undergraduate majors (Business, Health, Liberal Arts, Biology, and Engineering) at four-year colleges fell steeply last year.

But Liberal Arts declined the most (-7.6%), while Computer Sciences and Psychology (the 6th and 7th largest majors) grew by 1.3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

Why Have These Changes Occurred During the Pandemic?

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center doesn’t offer any opinions about why these changes are taking place.

Here at the Student Research Foundation, we would think that some, if not all, of the following trends, could be sparking the decline:

  • Family hardships due to loss of income during the pandemic.
  • A growing lack of confidence in colleges’ ability to provide quality learning experiences (in person or otherwise) until Covid-19 subsides.
  • A tendency of students to enter the workforce before completing college, encouraged by a large number of companies that are currently hiring.

But which of these factors is causing enrollments to fall? We will have to wait for the results of new research to know.

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