Why Americans are increasingly dubious about going to college

Why Americans are increasingly dubious about going to college

Aug 10, 2022 2 mins, 25 secs

Even as freshmen nervously arrive on campus for the fall semester, policymakers are grappling with what they say has become an “alarming” decline in the number of high school graduates willing to invest the time and money it takes to go to college.

And statistics belie the argument that recent high school graduates are getting jobs instead of going to college: Workforce participation for 16- to 24-year-olds is lower than it was before Covid hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports.

There has been a significant and steady drop nationwide in the proportion of high school graduates enrolling in college in the fall after they finish school — from a high of 70% in 2016 to 63% in 2020, the most recent year for which the figure is available, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The proportion of high school graduates in Tennessee who are going directly to college, for example, has fallen to 53% — down 11 percentage points since 2017.

In Indiana, it dropped to 53% in 2020, down 12 percentage points from five years earlier and a pace state Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery has called “alarming.”.

In West Virginia, 46% of 2021 high school graduates went on to college the following fall, 10 percentage points below that state’s high of 56% in 2010.

Fifty-four percent of 2021 high school grads in Michigan went straight to college, down 11 percentage points from 2016.

In Arizona, 46% of high school graduates in 2020 went to college the following fall, a drop from more than 55% in 2017.

In Alabama, recent high school graduates’ college-going in 2020 fell to 54%, down 11 percentage points since 2014.

“That conversation has come up more frequently — ‘Is it worth it?’” said Jennifer Kline, a counselor at Festus High School in Festus, Missouri, a state where the proportion of high school graduates going straight to college is down by 6 percentage points since 2017, to 61%.

That adds up to a lot of bad reviews passed down to younger siblings and classmates, for whom family and friends are the most trustworthy sources about whether to go to college, according to a survey by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Yet since the start of the pandemic, the proportion of 14- to 18-year-olds who think education is necessary beyond high school has dropped from 60% to 45%, the nonprofit Educational Credit Management Corporation.

Even high school graduates who plan to go to college admit to doubts.

It’s not only recent high school graduates who are turning their backs on higher education

Trying to get at the reasons so many people have stopped going to college, some states have conducted focus groups and surveys, revealing that the complexity of getting a higher education is to blame for some of the antipathy toward following through with it

Among the other findings of the Indiana Commission on Higher Education survey: Some Americans these days “balk at the idea of being told what to do by out-of-touch elites who don’t know them,” such as whether they should go to college

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