It’s not just our grocery stores that are empty in America right now, so are our college dormitories. Colleges are facing a massive drop in the number of students who are enrolling in classes for undergraduate degrees. This is a trend that may not stop with the end of the pandemic.
The National Student Clearinghouse released new data this week revealing that colleges and universities in the United States have seen a decline of almost 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021. This drop is continuing a trend that started the year before, according to National Public Radio.
The new data also showed that “continued enrollment losses in the pandemic represent a total two-year decline of 5.1 percent or 938,000 students since fall 2019. Undergraduate enrollment alone fell by 3.1 percent or 465,300 students over last year while graduate enrollment is down less than half a percent.”
Not only are the numbers down, the topics that students are signing up for are changing, too. Enrollment in the five largest undergraduate majors at four-year colleges dropped significantly this past year. Those majors are Business, Health, Liberal Arts, Biology, and Engineering. Out of those five, Liberal Arts declined the most at -7.6%. Computer Sciences and Psychology, which held the 6th and 7th positions, both grew by 1.3 percent and 2.5 percent.
At two-year colleges, these majors declined by -7.4%: Law Enforcement, Firefighting, Homeland Security, and Related Protective Services. Computer Sciences and Engineering both increased.
When you add this year’s decrease to last year’s decrease, the total enrollment numbers have gone down a total of 6.6%. That is the biggest two-year decline in over 50 years.
Some experts believed that students would just take a year off of school during the pandemic and, then, go back to college in 2021. But that is not how this is playing out.
Doug Shapiro is the leader of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse. He said that the enrollment numbers are very frightening and that instead of filling the hole that was dug in 2020, these declines are digging it deeper.
There is also an enrollment drop-in community college around the country. They are seeing a 13% decline since the pandemic started. But the most recent data indicates that at least half of the reduction in numbers is coming from students who had enrolled for a four-year bachelor’s degree. The previous year, the reduction focused on students enrolling for an associate’s degree.
Shapiro said, “The phenomenon of students sitting out of college seems to be more widespread. It’s not just the community colleges anymore. That could be the beginning of a whole generation of students rethinking the value of college itself. I think if that were the case, this is much more serious than just a temporary pandemic-related disruption.”
Graduate programs saw a decline in enrollment as well after rising in the Fall of 2020. Enrollment decreased by about 11,000 students in the Fall of 2021.
Adult students, ages 24 and above, saw the most significant enrollment decline this past Fall. It was driven by the declines at four-year colleges.
The only states to see an increase in enrollment were South Carolina, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Colorado.
One of the reasons for the decline in college enrollment could be a large number of job openings across America. Employers are offering incentives to attract workers. This could be causing the student population to delay their degrees.
It is also possible that the “woke” ideologies and liberal agendas have so saturated our campuses that some students may have been deterred from seeking out more education because of fear of retaliation from students with different political views.