Undergraduate Enrollment Fell 4.7% in the Spring
Approximately 662,000 fewer students attended undergraduate programs during the Spring 2022 semester compared with one year earlier, representing a 4.7% decline in enrollment. The total number of undergraduate students has declined by 1.4 million students — or 9.4% — since before the pandemic. When factoring in graduate students, overall post-secondary enrollment was down 4.1% on an annual basis this year. “Public institutions suffered the brunt of enrollment declines this spring, losing 604,000 students (-5.0% from a year ago). Community colleges accounted for more than half of these losses this spring (351,000 students) and have lost over 827,000 students since the start of the pandemic.” The population of women students shrank more by more than twice as much in 2022 (462,000) as 2021.
Most Provosts Like Liberal Arts – But Expect to See Fewer Liberal Arts College Soon
Provosts’ enthusiasm for a liberal arts education doesn’t mean they’re optimistic about the future of liberal arts colleges. While the vast majority (89%) view liberal arts positively and agree they’re central to education, 71% “strongly or somewhat agree that they ‘expect to see the number of liberal arts colleges decline significantly over the next five years.’” Competition from other programs is one reason for that outlook: 69% believe politicians and board members are prioritizing STEM and professional programs over liberal arts. Most provosts (54%) rated their schools’ academic health as “good,” whereas 32% said “excellent,” 12% said “fair,” and 2% said “poor.” Only 22% said their institutions are very effective at recruiting and retaining “talented” faculty members.
Community College Students Want More Online Courses
Community college students don’t appear to be in a rush to return to campus for all of their classes. The number who want to have the option of taking more courses fully online in the future has risen to 76%, up from 68% last fall. Student satisfaction with their learning experiences also increased – particularly among those who took online classes. “More two-year students (53%) gave their Spring 2022 learning experience an ‘A’ compared to only 40% in Spring 2021. For those students taking online courses, 62% gave online learning an ‘A’ in Spring 2022, compared to only 40% of students in Spring 2021.” Yet personal concerns remain widespread among students: 49% said stress is a significant problem for them, as are financial issues (31%), motivation (29%), and family and health issues (25%). At the same time, however, 38% didn’t know whether their school offers support services and only 15% had ever used those services.
Fewer Than Half of Adults with Student Debt Think the Benefits Justify the Cost
Carrying student debt into adulthood appears to be associated with greater doubts about the value of a borrowing to pay for college. Numbers released by the Federal Reserve Board reveal that most of those who had borrowed and subsequently paid off their debt (63%) believe “the benefit s of their education exceeded the costs.” Only 40% of those with outstanding debt agreed, while about half of those who never borrowed for college (51%) said the benefits of their education were worth the cost. “The report arrives at a time when higher ed leaders are concerned about the value colleges provide for students — and public perceptions of that value. These discussions are intertwined with student borrowing, which has been at the center of national debate as the Biden administration weighs ideas for forgiving federal student loan debt.”