As of late, there has been a decline in the number of students choosing to enroll in colleges and universities. While the current pandemic has negatively impacted admission into higher education, this decline has been ongoing for years now.
Vice President of Student Services at Mid Michigan College, Dr. Matt Miller, states that this reduction in the number of admissions has been noticeably happening for about 10 years.
“In 2010-11, community colleges in Michigan served about 485,000 students,” Miller said. “In 2019-20, community colleges served about 312,000 students – a 35% decline.”
Miller goes on to say that the decline is not specific to community colleges. It is also happening in the universities throughout Michigan. According to the Michigan Association of State Universities, enrollment in Michigan’s state universities has gone from 301,919 in 2011 to 270,872 in 2020. The largest decrease in enrollment took place from 2019-2020 when 8,085 fewer students enrolled.
One of the main reasons that enrollment has been declining recently is the current global pandemic. COVID-19 caused many changes to college life. A large number of classes were online and activities outside of academics were limited in order to reduce the spread of the virus. When questioned, Miller revealed that one reason for declining enrollment was because of these changes to the college experience.
“Potential students may not have wanted to attend online,” Miller said. “Students are hesitant to go to college during this time of uncertainty. Will there be a mask mandate? Will we need to move to remote classes? Will I get sick? Et cetera.”
According to Miller, other reasons behind the declining college enrollment are the financial burden and the many other opportunities presented to students.
It is no secret that higher education comes with a hefty price tag. However, college tuition has only become increasingly expensive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2020-21 tuition was 20% more than the 2008-09 tuition. The magnitude of these rising costs has caused students to opt out of attending a college or university.
Miller also emphasizes the point that there are alternative opportunities and career pathways. Paths that are achievable without a college degree are becoming increasingly more convenient and accessible for students as opposed to getting a degree. In an interview done by The Wall Street Journal, a young man named Daniel Briles explained why he chose not to attend college.
“‘There are opportunities that weren’t taught in school that could be a lot more promising than getting a degree,’” Briles said.
However, actions are happening in order to combat this issue. As outlined by Miller, one of the steps being taken to address the decline is trying to reach out and enlist potential students.
“This solution relies on the ability of the community college or university to simply attract additional students,” Miller said. “This may happen through new recruiting methods, additional scholarships, new programs, or additional services – all designed to attract students to the institution.”
Another step that he said is being taken is to get involved with the students that are already enrolled. Assisting them mentally, physically, and socially has been a way to keep college enrollment up.