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College Enrollment Drops As Students Seek Alternatives

The past two years have been marked by major education disruption at the K-12 level, as more families questioned the schooling status quo during prolonged school closures and remote learning. They left district schools in droves, choosing instead to become independent homeschoolers, join learning pods and microschools, or find high-quality virtual learning platforms. 

Public school enrollment plummeted during the 2021/2021 academic year, and continued its decline this academic year in many areas, despite the fact that schools reopened for full-time, in-person learning. 

Higher education is seeing a similar trend. College enrollment dropped in the 2020/2021 school year as many colleges and universities turned to remote learning, and it has also not rebounded.

In fact, The New York Times recently reported that the college enrollment decline may indeed be worsening this year. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment this spring is down 662,000 students compared to last year, or a drop of 4.7 percent. Graduate school enrollment also declined this year compared to last year.

“Prospective college students may be weighing the relative value of jobs that require or expect a college degree against equally attractive opportunities that do not,” wrote the Times.

These students are smart. They are recognizing that the conveyor belt to college, and the debt they assume along the way, may not be the best option. They are weighing the benefits of a college degree against the costs, both financial costs and opportunity costs, and determining that perhaps another pathway to adulthood might make more sense.

On this week’s episode of the LiberatED Podcast, I interviewed Cameron Sorsby, CEO of Praxis, about alternatives to college. Praxis is an apprenticeship boot camp program that helps young people to develop skills and experience that make them valuable to prospective employers. 

Over the past couple of years, Sorsby has been seeing increased interest in Praxis, along with a growing cultural acceptance of alternatives to college. “As soon as it became more socially acceptable to pursue other options outside of the typical higher ed track, you see more people flocking to it,” said Sorsby.

More individuals and families are questioning the conventional K-12 and college pathway, and are exploring other options. Their demand for both schooling and college alternatives will continue to dramatically reshape education for years to come.

Listen to the weekly LiberatED Podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google, and Stitcher, and sign up for Kerry’s weekly LiberatED email newsletter to stay up-to-date on educational news and trends from a free-market perspective.

Content syndicated from Fee.org (FEE) under Creative Commons license.

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One Comment

  1. The “everyone should be entitled to a college education” has been a decades long grifting scheme by Democrats and liberal colleges to enrich themselves and promote their Socialist ideology.
    Colleges have continually lowered their standards (while continually increasing costs) to pump out ignorant college graduates with no marketable degrees in majors like “Gender Studies” or “Community Organizing”. The colleges don’t care because the government now owns the student loan business so the colleges always get paid and the government gets all the interest on the loans. The indoctrinated students are angry because they can’t get jobs (except at Starbucks) but will always vote Democratic because they are promised “loan forgiveness” that will never happen.
    Meanwhile, the real high paying jobs in six figures (Plumber, Welder, Electrician) face massive shortages across the country because all those kids were getter their useless degrees instead of preparing for “real life” work. The government needs to stop all financial support of universities (let them stand or fall on their own), get out of the student loan business, and eventually the Department of Education needs to be dismantled. At this point they are just another bloated government waste of taxpayer dollars with thousands of employees and a 68 Billion dollar budget. Education started and should stay in the hands of state and local government only.

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