(FiveNation.com)- According to recent a report in the Associated Press, hundreds of thousands of high school grads chose not to enroll in college during the pandemic, choosing instead to seek jobs that don’t require a college degree due in large part to the high cost of tuition and the prospect of being saddled with crushing student loan debt.
In 2022, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 8 percent since 2019, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, accounting for the steepest decline in enrollment rates since 2018.
And while many see the drop in enrollment as promising news, the Associated Press spoke with dozens of academics who believe the impact of fewer college graduates could be “dire.”
According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, fewer college graduates could lead to increased labor shortages in such fields as information technology and healthcare. Those who choose not to enroll in college could earn as much as 75 percent less than those who obtain a bachelor’s degree.
Zach Mabel, one of the researchers from Georgetown, told the Associated Press that this would be a “dangerous proposition” for the strength of the US economy.
Even worse, the Associated Press reported, the drop in enrollment could signal that this generation has lost faith in “the value of a college degree.”
The academics interviewed by the Associated Press described the new generation of college-age Americans as “jaded by education institutions” due in part to being “left on their own” during the pandemic remote learning, prompting them to take part-time jobs. Once they graduated, these college-age students felt as though attending college for two to four years had “little appeal.”
Additionally, the student loan debt crisis has left many college-age young people nervous about the prospect of carrying massive debt to cover the ever-increasing cost of tuition.
Even with the pandemic lockdowns behind us, post-pandemic freshman enrollment, while increasing slightly from 2021 to 2022, is still below pre-pandemic levels.