College enrollment is plummeting. While the pandemic may have accelerated this trend, the ever-increasing cost of a college education has forced students to conduct a cost-benefit analysis that often favors entering the workforce over pursuing a traditional degree. Unless colleges modernize and find ways to make higher education more affordable, we can anticipate that this trend will continue.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, over the past 40 years the cost of a college education has increased by 169%. Meanwhile, the earnings of workers aged 22 to 27 after college have only increased by 19%.
And these costs tend to increase.
On average, the cost for public universities increases by about 3% per year, with private universities increasing a little more, with an average increase of 3.85% each year. Along with rising inflation, many students find earning a college degree unaffordable without racking up massive amounts of student loans.
The real fear of student debt and rising property costs, as well as a labor market that desperately needs workers, has led more and more students to determine that higher education is not not worth it. This is part of the reason why there are 1 million fewer students enrolled in university today than before the pandemic began.
And this decline is not evenly distributed. The impact of the high costs of higher education is particularly hurting children from low-income families, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which reports an “unprecedented” drop in the number of students from schools very poor and low-income secondary schools who go on to tertiary education.
But this short-term calculation could have devastating long-term effects.
People with only a high school diploma earn much less than those with a bachelor’s degree and are much more likely to live in poverty and be unemployed.
Physical institutions need to innovate and find ways to cut costs or this trend will continue to the detriment of next generation success.
Tech education leaders like Chegg CEO Dan Rosenweig have been urging colleges and universities to reform for years. In March last year, Mr Rosenweig noted that 75% of all students favor at least one hybrid system of higher education, pointing to the fact that young adults are realizing that they don’t do not need to attend an expensive public or private institution. academic year to meet the requirements of the first year. More and more students, he said, are taking these courses at community colleges and then “transferring them to save money.”
“The unit economy for colleges is going to be dire,” Mr. Rosenweig told an audience at the 2021 Jefferies Virtual Online Education/E-learning conference. “If they think people are going to keep paying these exorbitant prices, force you to live in a dormitory, force you to pay for a restaurant service. …It’s something the empire will try to fight back for a while, but the students will reject it.
78% of all students say they go to college for the sole purpose of getting a better job, Rosenweig told Yahoo News in 2020. He predicted that if schools fail to reduce costs, expand their curriculum to include skills-related courses, and at least in part go online, “they’ll go broke.”
Chegg, which was launched in the face of soaring textbook prices, has since grown into a global online learning platform. These types of platforms can help colleges and universities looking to adopt competency-based higher education, which reorients curricula to focus on skill mastery rather than classroom time. This type of learning gives students the materials and faculty resources to learn at their own pace.
Learning platforms like Khan Academy and Chegg, or other resources like YouTube, also help students learn the material in a way that best suits their schedule, which is especially beneficial for non-traditional students. . Students can then demonstrate that they have mastered the defined skills through tests or other assessments. Competency-based programs provide the opportunity to earn degrees and certificates at a significantly lower cost for students.
Digital textbooks can also significantly reduce student costs, as can open education systems that offer students the option of earning a portion of their course credits online. Additionally, with higher quality educational apps regularly appearing on the market, educators and institutions have the opportunity to provide quality learning experiences without the debilitating costs.
For too long, brick-and-mortar colleges and universities have let costs skyrocket unchecked, pouring money and resources into non-educational services like fancy gyms and business unions. students to attract students. But if these institutions do not find a way to reduce their costs, their sumptuous buildings risk being empty.
It’s time for colleges to refocus on their primary purpose – educating learners, and they need to do so in a cost-effective way that delivers a quality education to students without crippling them financially for life.
• Delegate Joshua Higginbotham served as Vice Chair of the House Education Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates. He represented the 13th constituency from 2016 to 2021.