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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Enrollment soars as economy plummets

Enrollment for universities and community colleges across the nation has increased during the current economic downturn.

‘ ‘If you look at the larger states like Florida and California, who are somewhat similar to Texas (population wise), you are seeing an increase in enrollment,’ Steven Johnson, associate vice president for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said.

From 2006 to 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics projected a rise of 10 percent in enrollments of people younger than 25, and a rise of 19 percent in enrollments of people 25 and older. Differential growth is expected by student characteristics such as age, sex and attendance status (part-time or full-time). Enrollment is expected to increase in both public and private institutions.

Enrollment trends in Texas differ from the rest of the states.

‘Trends in college enrollment differed rather substantially by state, with Texas increasing more rapidly from 2000 to 2006 than the nation as a whole,’ NCES economist William Hussar said.

Texas was one of the few states that had an enrollment increase in the 20th percentile, with a 21.2 percent increase from 2000 to 2006, according to the NCES.

Many people, especially during these times, have enrolled in community colleges first, and then transferred to major universities like UH.

‘ ‘I took some of my basics at a community college,’ psychology and political science senior Nathan Bradley said. ‘This is due to the fact that it saved me a substantial amount of money. University courses are very overpriced; it is simply more economical to take classes at a community college.”

This is a way to manage costs, considering that the gap has become so large between community colleges and universities, Johnson said.

‘ ‘We have had an 11 percent increase in enrollment (at community colleges) state-wide,’ Johnson said. ‘As for education level, all the research I have seen (shows) you get similar outcomes.’

During economic downturns, people may go back to school for many reasons, including training. Many feel the need to get reeducated. In some instances, it’s an alternative after losing a job.

‘In a downturn, with slower growth or declines in income, people will have less money to spend for education, pushing enrollment down,’ Hussar said. ‘However, with greater unemployment and underemployment, the opportunity costs for some people to go to college will also decline, which should push enrollment up.”

Not everyone agrees that going back to school should be the first option in difficult economic periods, or that it will even make a difference.

‘ ‘I don’t foresee going back to school after I get my degrees, ever,’ senior political science major Eileen Guthrie said. ‘But for some people, I could see that they might think a higher or different degree might make their lives better.’

During a recession, searching for a job can be stressful, especially for those without any experience, like recent college graduates.

‘ ‘I do not feel comfortable graduating and searching for a job with this current economy,’ Bradley said. ‘I have heard too many stories of people unable to find jobs because of hiring holds, or downsizing.’

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