Highlights from Higher Ed

Highlights from Higher Ed: Lower-Income Enrollment Woes, Segregation by Major, War’s Effect on Course Selection, and Pandemic-Era Transfers

Sep 21, 2022

Top Schools (and Others) Fail to Hit Enrollment Goals for Low-Income Students

Since 2016, more than 125 U.S. colleges and universities — including all eight Ivy League institutions — have joined forces to increase the enrollment of lower-income students enrolled at “high performing” schools by at least 50,000 within ten years. So far, the results have failed to meet expectations. Between 2015 and 2021, for example, those schools enrolled only about 7,700 students who fit that description. “In the 2021-22 school year, the 127 schools that provided data for the report enrolled 292,367 undergraduates who received federal need-based Pell Grants, which serve as a common proxy to measure lower-income student enrollment. That was down by about 500 from the prior year and off the 2018 peak of 299,084.” Families’ ability to afford college during the pandemic is one reason for the ongoing struggle to meet the enrollment goal. In addition, “Uncertainty over near-future endowment returns [is] exacerbating the challenges for schools trying to finance affordability initiatives, say university officials and academics who study higher education.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Report: Students Are Segregated by Fields of Study

A recent report from the Georgetown University Law Center’s Center on Poverty and Inequality asserts that first-year college students’ choices of majors essentially segregate campus populations by gender and race. That, in turn, reinforces existing economic and societal inequality because “students of color and women remain underrepresented in fields that traditionally lead to jobs with high earning power and status.” For example, men are more likely to enroll in computer science and engineering programs; women are more likely to opt for education and healthcare programs. “In 2020, men graduated with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering at a rate more than quadruple that of women. The same year, 19% of women earned bachelor’s degrees in healthcare, compared to only 5% of men.” The study’s authors suggest strategies schools can use to address the situation, including offering mentorship programs, equity-focused curriculums and advising, and student support networks.

Source: Higher Ed Dive

From the Battlefield to the Classroom: Enrollment in Russian Language Courses Plummets

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year appears to be having a quantifiable effect on the courses U.S. college students want to take. Interest in studying the Russian language has declined dramatically, while interest in learning Ukrainian and Polish is on the upswing. According to one report, enrollment in introductory Russian courses has declined by as much as 50% compared with pre-war numbers at some institutions. At the same time, more schools are launching programs focused on teaching other Slavic languages. At Yale University, for example, “enrollment for introductory Russian was at a six-year low as its demand for first-year Polish reached an all-time high…The University of California, Berkeley, is offering a Ukrainian-language option for the first time. Meanwhile, the University of Alberta has more than 60 Ukrainian-language students—roughly double last year’s enrollment.”

Source: Inside Higher Ed

The Pandemic Had a Chilling Effect on Transfers

Students were much less likely to transfer between colleges during the pandemic. According to one report, the number which changed schools during the first two full years of the crisis decreased by 296,200 (-13.5%). During the 2019-20 academic year, before the COVID-19 outbreak, almost 2.2 million college students changed schools. The number doing so in 2020-21 fell by nearly 200,000 (-9.1%), and in the 2021-22 school year, 97,200 fewer students transferred, a 4.9% decline. “Another discouraging finding was that overall post-transfer persistence rates (i.e., staying enrolled for the subsequent term after transferring) slipped nationally from 80.7% (pre-pandemic) to 80.4 % (year 1) to 80.3% (year 2) for those transferring in the fall term, and from 70.7% (pre-pandemic) to 69.8% for spring-term transfers.”

Source: Forbes


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