The best way to view current trends in the most meaningful context is to compare them with past developments and future expectations. In this edition of Higher Ed by the Numbers, we’re looking back — and looking ahead — to gain deeper insights into current news and events in the world of higher education.
Overall college enrollment dips to a 10-year low, but some types of schools see increases
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that fewer than 18 million students were enrolled in U.S. colleges in the fall of 2019 — the lowest number in the past 10 years. That amounts to a year-over-year decline of more than 231,000 students or 1.3%. However, some types of schools reported higher enrollment totals. For example, private nonprofit institutions with at least 10,000 students experienced a 2.7% increase; the number of dual-enrollment students at public two-year colleges also rose. Four-year, for-profit schools reported the biggest drop, as measured by the percentage of the student population. Public two- and four-year schools also saw the number of new enrollees decline, as did private non-profit institutions. Enrollment numbers also varied by region. The largest enrollment growth occurred in Utah (4.9%), Arizona (1.8%), Georgia (1.5%) and Kentucky (1.5%). The biggest declines were in Alaska (-10.6%), Florida (-5.3%) and Arkansas (-4.9%).
Source: Education Dive
Most Millennials value their college degrees, but many have regrets about career planning
Most Millennial graduates “value the education that they received,” believe their degrees prepared them for the workforce and would not change their decision to go to college, according to a recent study. Yet a “large minority… hold some reservations” about how well their education prepared them for their careers. While 61% said they would recommend the school they attended, more than 33% said their schools “over-promised and under-delivered” their ability to prepare students for jobs after graduation. Not all survey respondents placed all the blame on their schools, though: only 40% said they took full advantage of their schools’ career planning services, 58% regretted not taking advantage of internship opportunities and 69% acknowledged not having done sufficient career planning before accepting their first job after graduation.
Fewer Americans — particularly younger ones — think college is important
The number of Americans who think a college education is “very important” has fallen to 51%, from 70% as recently as 2013. According to a report on new Gallup Poll data, younger survey respondents were less likely to see the value of going to college, with just 41% of those aged 18 to 29 saying it’s important. That’s down from 74% in 2013. In addition, “opinions were split by race, gender and political party.” Women, Democrats and black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to say college is important, compared with men, Republicans and white respondents, respectively.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Students will now have a clearer picture of their debt
The U.S. Department of Education has announced the release of a new resource, called the “Informed Borrower Tool,” designed to allow individual students to see exactly how much student debt they have accumulated before taking on additional loans. Today, approximately 45 million borrowers owe in excess of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt; their default rate is greater than 10%. “This is unlikely to make a significant dent in students’ debt burdens,” says Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at the nonprofit National College Access Network. “But… it will keep borrowers aware of what they’re taking out and what they’ll be expected to pay back.”
Enrollment remains essentially flat at private nonprofit colleges
An analysis of National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) data reveals that enrollment at private non-profit colleges remains steady, despite the recent closings of several such institutions. Researchers attribute most of the past decade’s “lost enrollment” to the shuttering of for-profit schools. School closings and consolidations caused the number of private non-profit colleges to fall from 1,960 in 2017 to 1,930 in 2018; at least nine have met the same fate in 2019. Last year, Moody’s Investor Services predicted that up to 15 would wind down operations annually by 2019 or 2020. According to the report based on NCES data, enrollment at private nonprofits, which has been on the rise every year since “at least” 2004, climbed from 4.27 million students in 2017 to 4.28 million in 2018. In 2014, 3,630 for-profit colleges enrolled almost 2 million students; by 2018, 1.27 million students attended one of the country’s 2,790 for-profit institutions.
Source: Education Dive
Increasing and “new forms” of competition tops the list of higher-ed leaders’ concerns for the years ahead
Researchers working with the American Council on Education and the Georgia Institute of Technology asked nearly 500 public and private higher education leaders to identify which market trends will have the biggest impact on their institutions in the next five years. Most —62% — said, “increasing/new forms of competition for prospective students.” The list of top five concerns also includes declining traditional-age student population (59%); increasing nontraditional student population (39%); declining federal and state financial support (38%); declining public confidence in the value of higher education (27%) and; geopolitical uncertainty affecting international students (23%).
Source: Huron Consulting Group
Students identify their most- and least-regretted majors
Job-seeking college graduates who majored in English or foreign languages are most likely to say they regret what they chose to study (42%), due to “impractical, limited job opportunities.” Those who majored in math or computer science are the least likely to regret their majors, with just 13% citing “stressful industry, limited job opportunities.” Second on the list of most-regretted majors is the sciences (35%), followed by education (31%), social sciences/law (29%) and communications (27%). The second least-regretted majors are business and engineering (both 16%), followed by health administration/assisting (18%). Three majors register a 19% regret rate: community/family/personal services, health sciences/technology and repair/production/construction.
Liberal arts colleges provide the best return on investment — eventually
Researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce who analyzed factors including the cost of a degree and graduates’ future annual earnings have determined that a degree from a liberal arts college provides the best return on investment — in the long run. They found that the “median return on investment for a liberal arts college degree is 40% below other colleges 10 years after graduation. But after 40 years, the ROI on a degree from a liberal arts college is 25% higher than all other colleges.” That may be due to the fact that the perceived value of the degree becomes more apparent over time and that liberal arts graduates are more likely to have skills employers value, such as those related to critical thinking and communication. Researchers also found that “liberal arts colleges with a high percentage of students with STEM majors tend to have higher ROIs because those students typically have higher earnings once in the labor market.”
Source: CBS News