American’s are passing on the College experience, a new report finds. Enrollment rates are down for a second year in a row for a cumulative drop of 6.5% in enrollment since 2019. Many publications are attributing the drop to Covid, but deeper digging reveals that this downward trend has been in the making for a while.
Past, Present, Future
- During the recession of 2008, enrollment dropped considerably and cost institutions 50% of their endowments.
- The Great Recession also led to a decrease in the birth rate as people lost jobs, income, and houses. More on why this matters…
- High School graduation rates have been on the decline as well, making the well of potential college students shallower than in years past.
- The combination of low high school graduation rates and low birth rates means that we really won’t see the full ramifications realized until 2030.
All that paints a backdrop for today’s story.
While Covid certainly plays a role in the lower enrollment numbers, there is more to consider. Cost for college has increased exponentially with the average cost of $100K to attend a 4-year university. Many people are looking for educational opportunities outside of the traditional college institution. Some of the top tech companies no longer require a degree and some colleges offer up their full catalog of classes for free auditing.
College loans are also a bit of a pending problem, even if you don’t take one out yourself. The Federal Student loan program changed its accounting strategy over the last 30 years. It allowed for more loans to be taken out, while projecting that it would generate more profit than it has been able to. If this sounds a bit like the big bank lenders and the housing crisis…well, you’d be right.
A private associate from JP Morgan was asked to look over the books and he found that under the current model, US taxpayers could be on the hook for $500B in student loan portfolio losses.
To read more in-depth on this topic, check out this (politically unaffiliated) article.
Limitation Breeds Creativity
So we find ourselves in a place where college enrollment is declining, college costs could skyrocket, and society is being impacted.
106/108 of the original US universities were founded by Christians as a way to educate and improve society. Even before that, the Church was the cultural hub of every major city that wanted to break from their fatalistic beginnings. The idea of human dignity expressed in the Renaissance originates from the Bible, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
The freedom and dignity of the Christian faith is the catalyst behind many positive moves in history.
Could that mean that this void we are facing with college enrollment could be an opportunity? College was meant to better society and help people improve their lives. A deep root in Christian thinking is that people can and should better themselves. Maybe now it’s time to innovate a new way of doing that.
What could this potentially look like?
- Mentorships instead of scholarships
- Immersion in the workplace instead of seclusion in the dormitory
- Online opportunities to learn, train, and discuss ideas
For a faithful Christian, this might mean an increased level of selflessness, discipleship, and stewardship with your finances. The good news? All that rolls over into other areas of life too. No one knows what the future will hold for college, but Christians can absolutely help innovate the next cultural phenomenon.