College Enrollment Drops During Pandemic

It’s no surprise that fewer kids are going to college this year. Why pay full, or even near-full, tuition when the school is going to make you take classes online? It’s definitely not the traditional college experience.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) reports that overall higher education is down 4% from last year, but that the drop isn’t evenly distributed. It’s mostly freshmen who decided that they’d rather do something else this year, with new student enrollment falling 16.1%, and community college new student enrollment down more than 20%.

While this might seem straightforward, the question is what will happen next semester or even next fall? Will the class of 2024, which should have matriculated in September, be permanently smaller than other classes? Will the kids who chose to sit out this fall try to go to college next year? If they do, will there be enough room for both them and the normal class of 2025?

Colleges are holding their collective breath, hoping that this is just a one-year hiccup and things will return to normal next year. There’s no guarantee that will happen. Colleges around the country just told millions of students that online education is just as good as in-person, no matter how silly that seems after decades of telling people that on-campus is the only way to go.

It’s a good bet that students will want a mix of online and in-person in the years ahead, with a price reduction to match.

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