The latest college enrollment figures released on Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicated that 662,000 fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs in spring 2022 than a year earlier, a decline of 4.7 percent. Graduate and professional student enrollment, which had been a bright spot during the pandemic, also declined 1 percent from last year.
Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director, noted small gains in first-year, first-time students. However, he suggested that the numbers and the breadth of the declines indicate an underlying change, as students question whether college is the ticket to the middle class and a good-paying job.
“That suggests it’s more than just the pandemic to me; it’s more than just low-income communities that are primarily served by community colleges,” Dr. Shapiro said during a conference call with reporters. “It suggests that there’s a broader question about the value of college and particularly concerns about student debt and paying for college and potential labor market returns.”