All across the country, colleges are dealing with a massive drop in the number of students attempting to enroll in classes to get undergraduate degrees. This has led many to think that this is a trend that might not stop with the end of the pandemic.
Released Thursday, a new data set put forth by the National Student Clearinghouse reported that U.S. universities and colleges dealt with a decline of roughly 500,000 undergrad students for the fall 2021 semester which keeps in line with the deficit trend that started to drop prior, reported NPR.
The new data set from the National Student Clearinghouse stated that “[c]ontinued enrollment losses in the pandemic represent a total two-year decline of 5.1 percent or 938,000 students since fall 2019.”
It went on to add, “[u]ndergraduate enrollment alone fell by 3.1 percent or 465,300 students over last year while graduate enrollment is down less than half a percent.”
Along with the drop in enrollment, it was also noted that of those who did enroll there was also a difference in the topics that the students were trying to study.
The report went on to note, “Enrollment in each of the five largest undergraduate majors at four-year colleges fell steeply this year (Business, Health, Liberal Arts, Biology, and Engineering). Liberal Arts declined the most (-7.6%), while Computer Sciences and Psychology (the 6th and 7th largest majors) grew by 1.3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.”
“Among largest two-year college majors, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services declined the most (-7.4%), while Computer Sciences and Engineering increased,” it continued.
When compared to the stats of the fall 2019 semester before the pandemic hit, enrollment in undergrad programs has dropped by almost 6.6% overall, stated NPR. This is the largest two-year decline in well over five decades.
While many thought that students would end up just taking a year off from school throughout the pandemic, and then proceed to return to classes in 2021, it seems that that idea does not seem to be what took place.
“It’s very frightening,” stated the leader of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse, Doug Shapiro, reported NPR. “Far from filling the hole of [2020’s] enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper.”
This stress has also been experienced by many community colleges around the country as they are also seeing an almost 13% enrollment drop through the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, NPR stated that the fall of 2021 data reveals that students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year school were responsible for almost half of the drop in undergrad students. Back in 2020, that value was entirely different, with the drop taking place more with students seeking to get an associate degree.
“The phenomenon of students sitting out of college seems to be more widespread. It’s not just the community colleges anymore,” claimed Shapiro. “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.”