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College enrollment begins to stabilize, numbers still down

  • Enrollment has been down for most two-year programs
  • Jobs now are paying $15 to $20 an hour right out of high school
  • Expert: Most two-year students aren't given same support as four-year peers

(NewsNation) — While fewer Americans are heading to college, undergraduate enrollments have begun to stabilize in 2022, according to The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The new data revealed that enrollment has been down for most two-year programs, which essentially means that fewer people are obtaining associate degrees.

Over the last decade, public community colleges nationwide have seen a drastic dip in enrollment. Data by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center helped illustrate the dramatic decline, reporting that seven million students enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 but only 4.5 million enrolled in college in the fall of 2022.

Education experts said there are several reasons for the decline.

In 2010, there was a boom of new students prompted by the 2007–2008 financial crisis, where a lot of people were going back to colleges in hopes of seeking higher-paying jobs.

Now, jobs are paying $15 to $20 an hour right out of high school, which could be more appealing to this current generation of young adults.

Research also showed that most two-year students come from working-class families and aren’t given the same support as those students who attend four-year universities.

“Students who come from families that haven’t been to college don’t have coaches looking out for them. Too many end up wandering around and taking a mess of credits that don’t transfer to their major,” Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar with the Community College Reseach Center at Columbia University, said.

Jenkins pointed to one positive: Dual enrollment is growing on a national level.

One in every five students taking community college courses is actually a high school student. Jenkins said that those students succeed because they are given a path.

According to Jenkins, the key to stabilizing enrollment is a better structure and more funding at community colleges.

Devan Markham contributed to this report.


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