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Why Americans are increasingly dubious about going to college

  • Why Americans are increasingly dubious about going to college


    This story about college enrollment decline was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. To get more news about 美国文凭, you can visit jzjy001.com official website.

    Even as freshmen nervously arrive on campus for the fall semester, policymakers are grappling with what they say has become an "alarming" decline in the number of high school graduates willing to invest the time and money it takes to go to college.

    A little-understood backlash against higher education is driving an unprecedented decline in enrollment that experts now warn is likely to diminish people's quality of life and the nation's economic competitiveness, especially in places where the slide is most severe.

    "With the exception of wartime, the United States has never been through a period of declining educational attainment like this," said Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University's Miller College of Business.

    There are 4 million fewer students in college now than there were 10 years ago, a falloff many observers blame on Covid-19, a dip in the number of Americans under 18 and a strong labor market that is sucking young people straight into the workforce.

    But while the pandemic certainly made things worse, the downturn took hold well before it started. Demographics alone cannot explain the scale of this drop. And statistics belie the argument that recent high school graduates are getting jobs instead of going to college: Workforce participation for 16- to 24-year-olds is lower than it was before Covid hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports.

    Focus groups and public opinion surveys point to other, less easily solved reasons for the sharp downward trend. These include widespread and fast-growing skepticism about the value of a degree, impatience with the time it takes to get one, and costs that have finally exceeded many people's ability or willingness to pay.

    There has been a significant and steady drop nationwide in the proportion of high school graduates enrolling in college in the fall after they finish school - from a high of 70% in 2016 to 63% in 2020, the most recent year for which the figure is available, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.The proportion of high school graduates in Tennessee who are going directly to college, for example, has fallen to 53% - down 11 percentage points since 2017. In Indiana, it dropped to 53% in 2020, down 12 percentage points from five years earlier and a pace state Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery has called "alarming."

    In West Virginia, 46% of 2021 high school graduates went on to college the following fall, 10 percentage points below that state's high of 56% in 2010. Fifty-four percent of 2021 high school grads in Michigan went straight to college, down 11 percentage points from 2016.

    In Arizona, 46% of high school graduates in 2020 went to college the following fall, a drop from more than 55% in 2017. In Alabama, recent high school graduates' college-going in 2020 fell to 54%, down 11 percentage points since 2014. And in Idaho, college-going has plunged to 39%, down 11 percentage points since 2017.

    Americans are increasingly dubious about the need to go to college. Fewer than 1 in 3 adults now say a degree is worth the cost, according to a survey by the nonprofit Strada Education Network, which conducts research into and financially supports ways of expanding access to higher education.

    "That conversation has come up more frequently - ‘Is it worth it?'" said Jennifer Kline, a counselor at Festus High School in Festus, Missouri, a state where the proportion of high school graduates going straight to college is down by 6 percentage points since 2017, to 61%. "I just have more and more parents who are saying, ‘Nope. You're not going to do that. You're not going to a four-year college.'"

    Her students' parents "just don't value education the way they did in the past," said Amanda DeBord, an adviser in a statewide program in Tennessee called Advise TN. "I feel like that's been slipping for a few years."

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