There are 2.5 million fewer students enrolled in college today compared with more than a decade ago, when college enrollment reached its peak of 18 million. This decline accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic but has continued even after the virus subsided. Young men are leading this decline, resulting in a growing and harmful gender gap in higher education.
Called an “enrollment cliff” in imitation of the more familiar term of a “demographic cliff,” many more people have become disillusioned with what college fails to achieve. According to an education specialist at the accounting firm Deloitte, “There’s a broad-based drop in belief or trust in higher education as an institution.” Of course, you don’t have to be an education specialist to see the rising cost of college education. Tuition costs have increased many times more than inflation since 1970. Real wages have declined since then, and college education has diverged badly from what is needed in the marketplace.
To compensate for their sagging domestic enrollment, America’s universities have accepted a flood of foreign students, which helps colleges meet the liberal goal of ever-increasing diversity. The Biden administration then allows foreign students to snatch scarce good jobs after graduation, despite laws that require them to return home after completing their studies.
Downsizing of universities is long overdue, and those with bloated endowments should be helping to pay off the skyrocketing student loan debt that they helped to create. The largest debt burden is on black families, as liberal schools promoted diversity without regard for the enormous financial burdens that resulted from their liberal agenda.
It is still true that college can increase lifetime earnings, but primarily in lucrative fields such as engineering, and for students who graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile millions have been burdened with debt without ever finishing their coursework or receiving a degree. About one-fourth of American adults have attended college at enormous expense without earning a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 1 in 6 Americans over age 25 did not even earn an associate’s degree. Colleges themselves should bear some responsibility and financial liability for taking students’ borrowed money without giving them any real value in return.