Monday, May 16, 2022

Is tuition driving undergraduate enrollment decreases?

Also in this week's C&EN, this letter to the editor on college tuition: 

I share your concern on dropping undergraduate enrollment numbers as expressed in the editorial in the Feb. 7 issue of C&EN (page 2). The pandemic undoubtedly played a role, but the skyrocketing cost of tuition for higher education is a serious factor that cannot be overlooked. I’m old enough that I remember being able to work two jobs and pay for college tuition, food, and rent. Despite some availability of grants, this is no longer a possibility for the majority of undergraduate students without taking on burdensome student loans.

With a few exceptions, it appears that the ready availability of student loans has only encouraged universities to raise tuition rates to absurd levels. If the US government is to be a source of student loans, there should be accompanying restrictions on how much and how rapidly higher learning institutions can raise tuition. If we cannot make higher education more readily available without a decades-long student debt burden, we will see undergraduate enrollment continuing to decline, much to our detriment.

Robert B. Cody  

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

It seems almost axiomatic to me that, as tuition increases go up, student enrollments would go down, but that doesn't really seem to be the case for the last number of years? I would think that the demographic trends that are pointed to in the original editorial are the true source of the decline...


  1. How are alternate entry pathways to 4-year schools affecting enrollment? At least half the younguns in my family are completing their first two years at local community colleges before transferring to a 4-year school, others are a completing early entry programs as part of their high schools. This has gotten much easier in my state in recent years.

  2. Enough time has passed since tuitions skyrocketed that today's high schoolers have heard horror stories about 30-somethings being unable to afford mortgages because of student loan payments. When I was a kid, 30-somethings being unable to do basic adult things because of student loan debt wasn't a problem yet. We all thought we should just go to college and everything would somehow work itself out.

    As tuition goes to absurd levels, I suspect you'd be better off taking that 150K and investing it for your kid instead of pushing him/her into college.

  3. the data varies depends on which link one clicks into, but i assume takes inflation into the formula and thus only shows a 10-20% increase over 10 years; that's not a small number but I dont think its outrageous either.
    imo pandemic is certainly a thing (no offense but web courses is just not the same as real, in-person classes. I might as well getting into a coding bootcamp to fix my career...) affects college enrollment; but i'm more inclined to believe are people realizing one don't need a bachelors degree to do some/most of the jobs out there? there are a lot of factors that really could only be understood by surveys


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20