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College enrollment on decline in US – CNBC

More and more students question the return on investing in a degree, the broadcaster says

Enrollment in colleges across the US continues to decline, CNBC has reported, citing data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The trend, which started during the Covid-19 pandemic when many opted to get a job or complete a certificate program instead of seeking a four-year degree, doesn’t appear to be reversing, the broadcaster said in an article on Friday.

As of September, the freshman enrollment in US colleges went down by 3.6%, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center survey revealed. “Almost all of the freshman declines occurred at bachelor’s programs at public and private four-year institutions,” it said.

Another paper from the same center pointed out a stall in completion rates in six-year colleges. According to the figures, nearly a third, or 29% of all students enrolled in such programs in 2017, have dropped out or put their education on hold.

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“This is more bad news for four-year colleges,” Doug Shapiro, the executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, told CNBC. “Not only have fewer of the 2017 starters completed as of 2023, but the data also show fewer still enrolled, suggesting that this is more than just a matter of slower progress during the pandemic years,” he explained.

According to Shapiro, rising college costs and “ballooning” student debt balances are making more prospective students question the return on investment in higher education.

The Federal Reserve said last month that the total student debt in the US has nearly tripled since 2008, increasing from $619 billion to more than $1.77 trillion.

CNBC also cited studies by Lumina and Gallup pollsters that suggested that most of those who put their education on hold did so due to financial issues such as program costs, inflation, and the need to work.

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The broadcaster stressed that the decline in college enrollment was taking place even before June when the Supreme Court torpedoed US President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan. The judges ruled that the president, who is seeking reelection in 2024, had overstepped his authority by suggesting to cancel up to $20,000 of student debt for tens of millions of Americans.

December 02, 2023 at 06:43PM

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