US: Over 1 Million Fewer Students Pursue a College Degree Than Before Pandemic

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Over one million fewer students are pursuing a college degree in the United States compared to the period before the COVID-19 pandemic, recent data have revealed.

According to data published by the National Student Clearinghouse, a nongovernmental organization and the leading provider of educational reporting, exchange of data, verification, and research services, US higher education institutions have experienced a decline of almost 500,000 undergraduate students during fall 2021, reports.

The Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, Doug Shapiro, said that in the last fall semester prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 6.6 percent compared to the same period in 2019, which represents the biggest two-year decline in more than 50 years.

“Our final look at fall 2021 enrollment shows undergraduates continuing to sit out in droves as colleges navigate yet another year of COVID-19. Without a dramatic re-engagement in their education, the potential loss to these students’ earnings and futures is significant, which will greatly impact the nation as a whole in years to come,” Shapiro stressed.

National Student Clearinghouse data indicate that undergraduate enrollment dropped in all institution sectors, with private four-year institutions experiencing the most significant drop of 11.1 percent or 65,500 students and public four-year institutions experiencing a 3.8 percent decrease compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, enrollment at community colleges dropped by 3.4 percent in fall 2021.

One of the reasons that could have triggered the drop in the number of students going to colleges are jobs, in particular wages which have increased for workers of some industries. Shapiro said that the labour market is currently good and it is most likely that students are working.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for non-managers in leisure and hospitality have offered higher payments, 15 percent more than the previous year.

Overall, in the United States, more than 17 million students have enrolled in higher education institutions across the nation in fall 2021. Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have seen an increase in the number of enrollments.

At the same time, the Open Doors 2021 report from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE), has revealed last year that US colleges and universities have also seen a decrease in the number of international students of about 15 percent compared to a year earlier.

Figures have shown that a total of 914,095 international students studied in the US in 2020/21, a decrease from 1,075,496 students a year earlier.

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