Fewer students enrolled in college since before COVID – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

If you’re a family with a high school student about to graduate, chances are you’re busy filling out college applications.

Or maybe not.

Across the country, college enrollment is down.

The numbers have been falling over the past decade, but the pandemic has helped accelerate that decline.

According to a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse Center, there are more than a million fewer students enrolled in college today than in 2019 before the pandemic began. It has decreased by nearly 3 million over the past 10 years.

Public universities and community colleges saw the largest declines. Analysts said this huge drop in listings hasn’t been seen in more than 50 years.

“[The pandemic] transformed the traditional path from high school to college into a career – he turned the tables. There are so many different paths right now,” said Ryan Lufkin, vice president of marketing for Instructure, the creator of online learning platform Canvas.

Much of the reason for this decline can be attributed to financial constraints and rising costs. The pandemic has also set up a chain of events leading to inflation and financial strain on families, leaving less money in the end for college.

Minimum wage jobs have also increased dramatically, making them more attractive to young high school graduates looking to earn a quick payday to support themselves or loved ones. According to federal labor data, these payments were up 15% in December 2021 from a year earlier in 2020.

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Target also offer employees free tuition as long as they continue to work for them while taking classes. This could alter or expand the traditional path a student might have taken to pursue their future.

“Before the pandemic, we were already seeing a drop in traditional undergraduate enrollment at college universities, about the ninth or tenth year of declining enrollment. And so we’re already seeing a lot of students looking for alternatives or questioning the value of a college degree in certain ways,” Lufkin said.

Canvas, one of the leading virtual learning platforms used by districts and universities in North Texas and the country, has followed the trends over the years, especially as more and more students have turned to online learning during the pandemic.

“The most recent data shows that students don’t want to give up a lot of that flexibility that they’ve gotten during the pandemic. They want a combination of online classes and in-person classes, so they gain that college experience, but they have the flexibility to work and have families,” Lufkin said.

But he added there was potentially more to the numbers presented in these enrollment reports.

“The metric is usually full-time enrollment — and that’s how university colleges have kind of always measured it,” Lufkin said.

He said the data does not always include all the nuances related to online enrollment, part-time enrollment, part-time online enrollment and even just certification programs that have become popular options during the pandemic.

“It used to be that if you went to college you were guaranteed a well-paying job, regardless of your major. And now the skills you come out of college with are much more specific. So students are being much more specific and much more intentional with the programs they choose,” Lufkin said. “And because of that, a lot of universities are doing a lot of partnering with companies to make sure they’re closing the skills gap.”

Lufkin explained that a silver lining of the pandemic could be the acceleration of improved technology for online learning, opening new doors and flexibility for college or job opportunities that people didn’t have before.

“There are so many different paths, one of the cool things that I love is that it has shed new light on skills programs,” Lufkin said. “Google, for example, has its own certification programs that it offers online as a substitute for a bachelor’s degree.”

Lufkin said the schools are also considering specific programs for trade and industry jobs like welding, engineering, information technology and other sectors that urgently need workers.

“There are so many different schools in Texas in particular that are looking to evolve their programs, really focusing on that kind of open space that we have. We kind of have an opportunity to start fresh and evolve the traditional offering, and a lot of college universities are actually embracing that,” he said.

Universities also offer certifications that people can complete online even if they are not enrolled full-time on campus. A CNBC report tells how a 26-year-old was able to triple her salary to $100,000 by polishing her resume with Coursera certification courses.

“Beyond the traditional degree saying, I have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, how can I show that I have a skills certificate or program to show that I have developed those skills? So there’s a lot of efforts in higher education to make credential stackable,” Lufkin said.

60×30 in Texas

With the changes, there is an ongoing effort to increase the number of degrees Texans earn to help the workforce.

In 2000, the state created the Texas Higher Education Accountability System to track data and monitor the performance of public universities and colleges in Texas.

NBC 5’s Alanna Quillen explains the state’s plan for at least 60% of Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 to have a certificate or diploma by 2030.

In 2015, a new program was introduced to help increase the number of degrees and certifications earned in the state of Texas, as a need was recognized for more talent to adapt to changes in the workforce. work.

The program, called 60x30TX, provides resources and guidance to public universities and community colleges to achieve four specific goals that are more relevant than ever:

  • Ensure that at least 60% of Texans — ages 25 to 34 — have a certificate or degree by 2030.
  • By 2030, at least 550,000 students in this year will earn a certificate, associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree from an institution of higher education in Texas.
  • By 2030, all graduates of Texas public institutions of higher learning will have completed programs with identified marketable skills.
  • By 2030, undergraduate student debt will not exceed 60% of the first-year salary of graduates from public institutions in Texas.

Each goal is tracked with up-to-date data on the program website.

According to this data, the degrees obtained increased by nearly 30,000 additional degrees from 2016 to 2019. There were still slight increases in 2020 and 2021, despite the pandemic.

Click here to read more.

The 60×30 program also asks for more support so that students can complete their studies more quickly.

If it takes a student six years to graduate — which Lufkin says is common — that’s two more years of debt, made even harder by the rising costs families have been facing since 2020.

This has prompted colleges and universities to create their own programs to help students, which every parent and student should ask their academic advisor.

“One of the great things colleges and universities have done is really helped create student success programs,” Lufkin said. “Ensuring that students are on the path to graduation in four years and have better access to resources about available jobs and available courses so they can match them with actual results and real career paths. It’s a big change we’ve seen in the last couple of years.

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