Young Student In Loan And Debt Concept

Officials who study higher education have laid out the three top reasons they believe young Americans are opting against going to college as realities of the post-COVID world.

The Trends Journal has long identified how traditional colleges are relics of a past time that once assured millions of Americans life in the middle class. (See “Top Trend 2023, COLLEGE CRASH.”)

Last month, we wrote about how apprenticeships have become a more viable option for people who want to learn a specific trade and get paid while learning the craft. (See “YOUNG AMERICANS DITCH COLLEGE FOR APPRENTICESHIPS, FURTHER CEMENTING OUR TOP TREND,” 21 Mar 2023.)

Business Insider listed three of the top reasons colleges across the country are experiencing a decline in enrollments, and the top of the list is costs. More young Americans are questioning the wisdom of taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans while sitting out four years of possible wage earnings.

Insider noted that there is $1.7 trillion in student loan debt impacting 45 million Americans.

The report said the annual price to attend a four-year university was $30,000 in 2020 compared to $10,000 in 1980, when adjusted for inflation in 2020 dollars. The cost of college tuition has skyrocketed 1,184 percent—5 times the pace of inflation from 1980-2020.

Another reason for the drop in enrollment was the fact that Americans took advantage of the robust labor market during the COVID-19 outbreak and benefited from higher wages. There is just a 60 percent graduation rate at four-year schools.

“The tight labor market has also meant that employers are willing to forgo a college degree to be able to fill some jobs and have even been willing to train workers,” Alicia Sasser Modestino, an associate professor at Northeastern University, told the news outlet. “For Gen Z, it’s certainly the case that the ‘college for all’ mentality has been replaced with ‘show me the money.’”

The report also noted how Americans who identify as Republicans feel underrepresented in higher education and believe courses and professors are geared toward liberal ideology. 

The Insider report, citing a Pew Research Center poll, said Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saw a positive impact colleges had on society in 2015, with 54 percent having a positive feeling toward these institutions. In 2019, that number declined to just 33 percent. 

“If you are already thinking college should be about career preparation and you don’t like what you’re hearing about the politics on campus, it’s a double disincentive for someone to enroll who’s already on the fence. It’s going to tip the decision towards not going,” Will Bunch, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist who authored “After the Ivory Tower Falls,” told the news website.

New Poll

A new poll released by The Wall Street JournalNORC found that there are more Americans who believe a college degree is a bad investment than those who still have faith in higher education.

The poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe earning a four-year degree is a bad bet compared to 42 percent who still have faith, the paper said. 

The report noted that the numbers essentially flipped since 2013, when 53 percent of Americans saw a college degree as a key asset, compared to 40 percent who disagreed. 

One of the biggest jumps in the survey were those who currently have a college diploma who now say it is not worth the aggravation (42 percent today, which is a 10-percentage point increase in the last decade). 

Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, told the paper that the findings are sobering and should be seen as a “wake-up call.”

“We need to do a better job at storytelling, but we need to improve our practice, that seems to be the only recipe I know of regaining public confidence.”

TRENDPOST: We have noted that the COVID-19 outbreak has sped up the country’s shift from traditional four-year colleges and the proof is in the pudding. There is a 15 percent decline in enrollment over the last decade because Americans do not want to be weighed down by tens of thousands in student-loan debt and eliminate themselves from four years of earning a salary.

The shift from college to certifications and licenses to operate equipment is afoot in Washington, and two Virginia representatives are pushing a proposal that would give 529 holders more flexibility. (These plans are typically used by Americans to save for higher education.)

“For students and workers in Virginia, 529 savings accounts have long ensured that the next generation can afford a higher education,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said in a statement. “But right now, students can’t use these accounts to pay for necessary credentialing programs and exams.”

Blue-chip companies like Dell, Google, and Bank of America, are also focusing on skills-based hiring to widen the talent pool. This is a strain on the demand side of college degrees, pushing more away from enrollment.

TREND FORECAST: We are forecasting a significant decline in enrollment numbers in the coming years.

Unless Washington steps in and bails out the schools to keep the scam going, which they will most likely try to do, we will see a significant tightening of university spending and a significant number of closures.

The tuition gap between private and public four-year schools will also tighten as private schools lower their costs to meet demand and public schools become more popular as students look for less-expensive options.

However, lower-income Americans will be priced out entirely and we will see a significant drop in total enrollment. 

The bottom line will be that the one percent who already own over 50 percent of the equity markets will own more of America… and the world, while America’s middle class will continue to shrink and own less. Thus, the rich will get richer and the rest of the nation—and much of the world—will grow poorer.

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