What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
COVID-19

College enrollment overall has dipped, but it’s down significantly at community colleges

Mitchell Hartman Oct 16, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
College enrollment is down just 4% compared to last year, according to the National School Clearinghouse Research Center. But the drop-off is much steeper when it comes to first-year students and those at community colleges. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
COVID-19

College enrollment overall has dipped, but it’s down significantly at community colleges

Mitchell Hartman Oct 16, 2020
Heard on:
College enrollment is down just 4% compared to last year, according to the National School Clearinghouse Research Center. But the drop-off is much steeper when it comes to first-year students and those at community colleges. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We’re about a month into the fall semester, and it’s been kind of a roller coaster with COVID. According to a survey out from lender Sallie Mae, just 7% of college students are on campus attending classes fully in person. Around half of students are being taught exclusively online. The rest are doing some hybrid combination.

And there are new college enrollment numbers out that show the return of students this fall hasn’t been evenly distributed among schools.

With the pandemic raging this summer, college administrators didn’t even know how many students would pay tuition and show up for classes —whether in person or online.

Well, now the numbers are in.

“Compared to expectations, really not so bad,” said Doug Shapiro at the National School Clearinghouse Research Center.

Shapiro said college enrollment is down just 4% compared to last year.

“That’s encouraging that most students who were already in college were able to stay enrolled, despite the pandemic and all the online and everything else,” he said.

But first-year enrollment is down more than 16%. And at community colleges, it’s down by nearly 25%.

“This is concerning and quite frankly surprising given the easier access you have into community college and the lower price point,” said Emily Wadhwani, who covers higher education at Fitch Ratings.

Wadhwani said the decline likely reflects job- and income-loss among low- and middle-income households. She said many community college students depend on work to pay tuition.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.