Highlights from Higher Ed: Mental Health Woes, Endowment Dip, Race Considerations, Top-Paying Degrees 

Feb 14, 2023

80% of College Students See a Mental Health Crisis on Campus 

Four out of five U.S. college students believe their campuses are experiencing a mental health crisis, and 70% said they personally are dealing with issues including stress, depression, and anxiety. Following mental health, the most common stressors cited by survey respondents were personal finances (39%), academics (37%), mass shootings (35%), and inflation (35%). On the bright side, 70% believe their school offers sufficient mental health support. Among the 50% who have used teletherapy services or a mental health app, 75% said it was helpful. Not all stress is created equal, however. Transgender students reported mental health concerns at the highest rate (93%), followed by non-binary (91%), and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander Native students (83%). “American Indian (84%), transgender (79%), non-binary (73%), and LGBTQIA+ (68%) students report experiencing higher levels of emotional distress, stress and/or anxiety in the last 12 months due to lack of basic needs than students overall (59%).” 

Source: eCampus News

Endowment Returns Just Declined for the First Time in Years 

After rising more than 30% in fiscal year 2021, the average college endowment return decreased 8% in 2022. Prior to that, endowment funds had not lost value since 2016. Last year’s decline has been attributed to “a crushing combination of inflationary pressures and other factors that forced most major investment indices down sharply by the year’s close.” The data reflects the investment performance of 678 institutions with combined endowment assets totaling $807 billion. Investment returns are only one component of an endowment’s value; it is also affected by withdrawals for expenses, management and investment fees, and new contributions from donors. “The news would have been worse had it not been for the fact that donations to college endowments held up very well during the year, rising an average of 22%. Those gifts helped offset some of the losses in endowment value caused by the dismal market performance.” 

Source: Forbes

Most Americans Don’t Think Race Should be Considered for Admissions 

More than half (62%) of respondents to a recent survey about “high-profile cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this spring” believe that race should not be a factor in college admissions decisions. However, survey results diverge significantly when parsed along political and demographic lines. Fewer than half (46%) of Democrats voiced that opinion when surveyed in early February, compared with nearly three quarters (73%) of Republicans. And whereas a slight majority (52%) of minority respondents felt that way, 67% of white respondents were opposed to race-conscious admissions policies. “In the Reuters/Ipsos survey, 46% of respondents said social policies such as affirmative action discriminated unfairly against white people. That view was held by 49% of white respondents and 39% of minority respondents.” Last year, most Supreme Court justices “signaled sympathy” for arguments against affirmative action.  

Source: Reuters

Almost All of the Highest-Paying Majors are in Engineering 

The list of college majors that “pay the most” within five years of graduation and the list of those providing the highest paychecks for mid-career workers have something in common: eight of the majors in each list are from engineering programs. In descending order, the majors that pay the highest median salary within five years of graduation are chemical engineering ($75,000), computer engineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, miscellaneous engineering, business analytics, and civil engineering ($65,000). The most lucrative degrees for workers between the ages of 35 and 45 are chemical engineering ($120,000), computer engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, miscellaneous physical sciences, industrial engineering, miscellaneous engineering, and civil engineering ($100,000). 

Source: CNBC

More Working Age Adults Have a College Degree or Credential

The number of working-age Americans who have earned a college degree or credential increased at a greater rate in recent years than it has since 2009, according to a new report. The number of adults in that cohort increased from 51.9% in 2019 to 53.7% in 2021, which also happened to be the first year in which degree attainment rates improved in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C. (72.4%) led the pack, followed by Massachusetts (62.1%) and Utah (61.1%). “In addition to regional improvements… attainment among adults ages 25 to 64 rose across all races and ethnicities. In 2021, the number of Hispanic and Latino adults with degrees rose almost 2.5 percentage points to 27.8%. Black adults saw an almost two-point increase, to 34.2%.” The average national degree attainment rate during that period was 45.7%

Source: Higher Ed Dive

Class of 2022 Left Billions in Unclaimed Pell Grants

As a result of not completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), high school students who graduated in 2022 missed the opportunity to collect $3.6 billion in Pell Grant funds. That oversight could limit students’ financial ability to consider all of their postsecondary options. “Between just two graduating classes (2021 and 2022), a whopping $7.33 billion in Pell Grants have been left on the table. The unclaimed dollars from these two high school classes each represent about 14% of annual Pell Grant expenditures.” The FAFSA completion rate has moved in different directions in recent years, from 61% in 2017 to 57% in 2021 and 59% the following year. More than 1.65 million students who graduated in 2022 failed to complete a FAFSA; the average grant award was $4,686. That year, the highest FAFSA completion rates were in Washington, D.C. (74%), Tennessee (71%), Louisiana and (69%). The lowest were in Alaska (35%), Utah (38%), and Oklahoma (43%).

Source: National College Attainment Network


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