Decoding the decline in college enrollments

A recent study from the National Student Clearinghouse revealed that undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8 percent from 2019 to 2022, and this decline is even after the resumption of in-person classes.

According to a study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, college dropouts earn 75 percent less compared with those who get bachelor's degrees.

Experts fear that fewer college graduates could worsen labor shortages in sectors such as health care and information technology.

There are many possible reasons for this decline in college enrollments.

According to the most recent quarterly tally by the Federal Reserve, student loan borrowers in the United States owe a collective $1.76 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of September 2022.

The average U.S. household with student debt owes $58,238, according to NerdWallet's 2022 household debt study.

Fifty-five percent of the class of 2020 graduated with student debt, according to the most recent data available from the College Board.  Among these graduates, the average student loan debt was $28,400.

This means that students are in a mountain of debt even before they step out into the workplace.

This is equivalent to being burdened with a heavy backpack while competing in a marathon.  The competition was always going to be arduous, but the added burden makes it worse.  If the burden consists of nutrients that aid your performance during the race, carrying it would have some merit.  But if the material in the back has no relevance to the race, it becomes a burden.

Back to education.

In principle, education is about enlightening minds and should not be looked at from the perspective of value for money.

But in the real world, everything, from a packet of crumpets to the most exclusive luxury, is looked at from the point of view of return on investment.

Why should a formal education be different?

Evaluating the worth of a goal that takes a decade and a half of one's life to accomplish and costs a few hundred thousand dollars is essential and is a worthy exercise.

So let's focus on the product.

Education should always be about questioning and challenging even what is regarded as an axiomatic fact.  It should train individuals to think and resolve problems.  Students should be encouraged to be curious and skeptical while maintaining an open mind.

But in recent times, matters have deteriorated.

Corrupt educators see students as potential pawns in the left's quest for permanence in power.  Educational institutions have become a forum for indoctrination rather than enlightenment.

Students are brainwashed into believing ideas that have been postulated by the left.  Those who reject these ideas are bigoted, ignorant, and the root of problems that plague humanity.

The young are typically vulnerable and impressionable, so they accept these ideas unconditionally and rapidly.  Those who reject these ideas are the recipient of scorn and reprisals, hence hesitant skeptics remain quiet.

The result is an echo chamber of unconditional obedience, where even the slightest discord "triggers" students.  The absence of any challenges or counter-perspectives means that all growth or instinct to innovate is destroyed.

A course such as gender studies, or any of the race studies, causes students to look at every occurrence from the perspective of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.  The only innovations here are new pronouns and gender types.  Students earn a degree, but not an education.

Every shortcoming is viewed as part of one's identity, which earns victimhood, hence striving for improvement is quite out of the question.

Recently, a professor was fired for a precise evaluation of his students' submissions.  The students prefer flattering falsehoods instead of factual evaluations that give them an opportunity to improve and grow.

By the time these individuals graduate, they have become overly sensitive snowflakes.  They also become arrogant, entitled, and self-righteous.  They assume to know it all and see those who disagree with them as bigoted ignoramuses.  If these individual reach positions of power, the damage done is often irrevocable.

Why would anyone want to be part of a system that destroys all individuality and transforms individuals into petrified puppies?

Even before the insanity stuck academia, there were inherent problems.

There have always been vast gaps between the theoretical and the practical.  Quite often, even those graduating at the top have to unlearn their theoretical knowledge in order to acquire skills to be functional in an office.

There is also the question of the knowledge imparted.  A syllabus takes several months to be developed and approved, by which time many advancements are made in the outside world.  This means that the knowledge derived from recommended books may not necessarily be applicable in the real world.

For instance, studying computer science at a reputed college or university may earn a degree, but the computer languages taught or the principles of software engineering, etc. could be outdated and unrelated.

On the other hand, a student fresh out of school may learn to code during his summer vacation by watching YouTube videos and doing online exercises.  His abilities earn him freelance work and soon a job.  He learns every stage of software development and becomes an expert in a year.  Perhaps he founds a business at a young age and prospers.

An individual who dedicates four years to a bachelor's degree in computer science could take a while to deliver at work because the education system had closed his mind and trained him in theoretics only. 

He is older than the self-educated high school diploma–holder but less useful at the workplace.

The fact that he has a degree means he expects a higher salary.  Hence, employers could prefer one who had practical knowledge only, especially for entry-level jobs.

The easy availability of online courses, which are often free, has caused a paradigm shift in how education is acquired.

The reason employers may prefer individuals with degrees is not for the knowledge, but for the effort.  Bachelor's degree–holders have dedicated 16 years of their life to the pursuit of one sole objective.  The least it demonstrates is some form of focus, commitment, and discipline in the candidate.  The employer assumes that it can be molded into something useful with practical training.

In principle, everyone should have a right to education because it is the only way people can rise up in life strictly on their abilities and efforts.

Talented individuals from modest backgrounds could rise up in society through education. 

What about individuals who are neither academically inclined nor economically affluent?  Dedicating time and money to education could be a losing proposition.  The individuals may end up not getting a degree or scoring poorly and end up left with a hefty debt.

The pitfall of not having a degree is that one could bang his head into a glass ceiling.

The employee would rise up the hierarchy, but most firms prefer graduate or master's degree–holders for senior positions.

Back to education.

Dropping out of college may not be a bad idea if one engages is meaningful pursuits.

In current times, there are myriad forums for enlightenment.  It doesn't always have to be within the imposing walls of colleges and universities.

Society will have to change its attitude toward education for any of this to get better.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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