CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — As the pandemic wears on, many former students are turning their backs on getting a college degree.
According to data compiled by the National Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has dropped by nearly 1 million students since the start of the pandemic. That’s a 5.1% drop from the fall of 2019.
Some experts say the shift to remote learning during the pandemic has pushed more students to take time off, and re-evaluate what they really wanted to do with their futures. Others students have taken time off due to stress and hardships. Emily Jashinsky, culture editor at the Federalist, says one of the biggest reasons why students are leaving college is simple: it’s the money.
“I think we had our entire system of K through 12 education geared towards college for a reason, because that used to be the gateway to the middle class, Jashinsky said Thursday on “The Donlon Report.” “And we know it’s not anymore. We know it’s a gateway to some average of, like, $30,000 in student loan debt.”
According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student per year. The annual cost of tuition at a four-year public college was $243 in 1963, which is $2,078 when adjusted for inflation.
Braxton Brewington, press secretary for The Debt Collective, said this is the reason why college should be free to all.
“The reality is 40% of people who actually have student loan debt, don’t even have their college degree,” he said. “A vast majority of that is due to the fact that they couldn’t afford to finish school.”
Leaving college with debt is not uncommon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 62% of students graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree within six years. The remaining 38% of students often withdraw due to cost, family responsibilities or other factors.
Jashinksy said America has to do something about the cost of education and continue to make it less expensive for students. She also said we need to get rid of the taboo that students have to go to college right out of high school.
“I think we really need to reduce the stigma of the trades that has built up over the course of the last three decades where we were valuing them by overvaluing college,” she said.
But this “college dropout” phase is not just happening to first-year students. Many students are also dropping out of college to take low-paying jobs to support their families during the pandemic. Brewington said people with wealth are most likely to enroll in higher education.
“If you are rich, you can afford to go to college … if you’re at the top 10%. But everyone else, you know, there’s a question of is, is higher education actually a good deal? “
Brewington suggested that the government should fund tuition-free institutions in order to give everyone a chance, not just the rich.
“Why don’t we fund tuition-free college, and then we can give folks the opportunity? If the job market that they’re trying to enter in requires a college degree, then that’s something that can pursue?”
President Joe Biden previously called for two years of tuition-free community college for Americans. First lady Jill Biden, who has been a teacher for decades, has also advocated for the measure in recent months.
The Hill contributed to this report.