College enrollment continued to drop in 2021 as the number of students seeking a degree fell to a 50 year low. According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse, there are nearly one million fewer students enrolled in college compared to 2019.
Undergraduate enrollment for the fall 2021 semester fell by 3.1%, and it is down by 6.6% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. While freshmen enrollment saw a slight uptick of 0.4% from 2020, this year’s freshmen class had 213,400 fewer students compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
Overall, when looking at the graduate and undergraduate enrollment, there are 983,000 fewer students attending college compared to fall 2019.
The rate of college enrollment has been trending downward in recent years and was exasperated by the pandemic. That has education experts concerned that a growing number of students are shunning higher education.
“The longer this continues, the more it starts to build its own momentum as a cultural shift and not just a short-term effect of the of the pandemic disruptions,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Students are questioning the value of college. They may be looking at friends who graduated last year or the year before who didn’t go, and they seem to be doing fine. They’re working; their wages are up.”