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Why falling U.S. college enrollment is good news

Posting in Education

Here's a bit of good news: fewer people in the United States are going to college!

Huh?

Since 2010, enrollment in colleges and universities in the U.S. have steadily declined. During that time, enrollment saw its biggest dip this spring, falling 2.3 percent compared to last spring. While that means some colleges are offering big discounts to attract students, it could actually be a good sign for the overall U.S. economy.

But first, a look at those numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse:

Enrollment is pretty much declining or seeing no increase across all sectors of U.S. colleges and universities. But here's where the good news comes in. Those decreases could actually be a sign of a stronger U.S. economy, as Jordan Weissmann explains at The Atlantic:

Conventional wisdom says that as the economy tanked, students took refuge from the job market by heading to campus. Some critics say that storyline is bunk, and that the last few years of enrollment growth were really just the continuation of a long-term trend. But either way, fewer new students seems like a sure sign that, if they were before, Americans have stopped turning to education as a professional measure of last resort.

That's not the only story, of course. As you can see in graph above, four-year for-profit colleges are seeing the biggest enrollment dropoff, but, as Inside Higher Ed points out, some of that has to do with colleges trimming admissions numbers to curb dropout rates. Surely fewer people with high debt and no degree to show for it must also be good for the economy.

[Via The Atlantic and Inside Higher Ed]

— By on May 20, 2013, 6:29 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure