Graduation rates among high school students have gone up, but college enrollment has fallen. There are three contributing factors for the decline in enrollment: the economic upswing, the cost of education and the decrease in the pool of potential students. Understanding the influences on enrollment will enable your school to effectively prepare.
Economic research suggests students are more likely to attend college during economic recessions. Simply put, during recessions there are fewer jobs. Students are prompted by the market to hone their skillsets making them more desirable to potential employers. Whereas, when there are more positions available, students are tempted into the workforce, choosing current financial stability over future financial growth. Students over 25-years-old and those in greater financial need are the groups where enrollment numbers fall first. These students have greater pressures on them to begin making money sooner than later. Also, males may be more likely than females to choose employment over education, accounting for the higher number of degree-seeking women than men. However, according to a Pew report, the earnings gap between high school graduates and college graduates has widened, meaning the decision not to attend college could have long-term effects on the financial stability of potential students. Additionally, the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates with no further education is 17.8% as compared to the national average of 4.7% — even with economic growth young adults struggle to find positions.
Rising costs of education
Cost is the main deciding factor for students deciding not to attend their first choice of schools. However, what about for the students who are simply deciding not to enroll in higher education at all? Most research is being conducted on the theory that more students decide to go into the workforce when the economy is doing well, but Kurt Bauman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch, said that a down economy might make earning money more appealing to recent graduates. In which case, other factors should be considered. As the economy recovers, education costs continue the rise. Incurring large amounts of debt coupled with the loss of a steady income could be too cost-prohibitive to some students. Between 2012-2013 the most dramatic drop in enrollment came from households earning $20,000-$75,000. Families in this income range have a harder time receiving need-based grants and scholarships, leaving the entire cost of education on their shoulders.
Decrease in student pool
Projections released by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education highlight the changes in high school graduating classes. The diversity and percentage of students graduating high school is growing; however, the actual number of students receiving diplomas is predicted to drop by 2.3% in 2017. With a smaller pool of graduates, colleges will see a drop in enrollment unless they reach out through recruitment to students who normally wouldn’t have attended. The stagnation of student growth is expected to last until 2023.
All of these factors will lead to drops in enrollment. This is why preventative measures such as cutting students costs and interpreting big data have become trends in education. With declining enrollment numbers, student retention is more important now than ever. Understanding student stress points and what they need to be successful is necessary for ensuring everyone’s future success.