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Enrollment Down as Labor Shortage Pushes US Colleges into Crisis



Enrollment Down as Labor Shortage Pushes US Colleges into Crisis

During the pandemic, many kids who came of age often had to opt out of college out of necessity.

But it wasn’t just a momentary blip, the downward trend in admissions at colleges has continued. Enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines coming even after colleges returned to in-person classes, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. Enrollment did increase slightly from 2021 to 2022, but remained far below pre-pandemic levels.

A lot of it has to do with the attitude of young people today. They had to make do and forge new paths during the pandemic, so they’re continuing more of the same.

But the impact is two-fold. It’s the labor shortage itself that’s forcing a lot of kids to consider alternative paths; open careers in a variety of non-degree-holding jobs means that they don’t necessarily need a degree to make good money. However, historically, people who opt out of college earn on average 75% less over their lifetime than their degree-holding peers.

Or at least, that’s the conventional wisdom.

On the flip side, fewer kids attending college means a worsening labor shortage in certain degree-holding careers.

The Supreme Court seems likely to block a Biden-era attempt to chip away at the yawning chasm of student debt, so kids who are already making it work are unimpressed with the possibility of a lifetime chained to massive amounts of debt.

Experts wonder how they can tempt young people back to colleges – and if they even should.

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