“It’s completely unprecedented.”
Wouldn’t you put off going to college right now? The fun side of the experience is nearly gone.
‘Losing A Generation’: Fall College Enrollment Plummets For 1st-Year Students
All throughout high school, Brian Williams planned to go to college. But as the pandemic eroded the final moments of his senior year, the Stafford, Texas, student began to second-guess that plan.
“I’m terrible at online school,” Williams says. He was barely interested in logging on for his final weeks of high school; being online for his first semester at Houston Community College felt unbearable.
“I know what works best for me, and doing stuff on the computer doesn’t really stimulate me in the same way an actual class would.”
Paying for college was always going to be hard, but it was even harder to justify the expense during a pandemic. “We had no money for it,” he says, “and I’m not trying to go into debt and pay that for the rest of my life.”
He wondered if college in 2020 was “really worth it.” So he postponed and instead got a job at Jimmy John’s so he could start saving up.
Williams is one of hundreds of thousands of students who decided to put off higher education this year. According to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate enrollment this fall declined by 3.6% from the fall of 2019. That’s more than 560,000 students and twice the rate of enrollment decline seen last year. Most of that decline occurred at community colleges, where enrollment fell by more than 10%, or more than 544,000 students.
“To see this level of decline all at once is so sudden and so dramatic,” says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse. “It’s completely unprecedented.”
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