Declining college enrollment is nothing new.
This was before the outbreak, which was due to rising tuition and housing costs at most universities.
But due to the rampant labor shortage, especially in the Blue Cholera sector, workers without degrees are being paid more than ever.
Converging trends are forcing families of high school graduates to think more than ever about whether the investment in higher education is worth it.
Part of Elijah Creel’s old routine is building a house outside Power Technical College in Colorado Springs.
PTEC is part of the James Irwin Charter School system, and every day, nearly 400 students spend 2 periods of their 9th grade learning a career.
Some trades are traditional, such as welding or carpentry, while others are high-tech, involving computers and 3D printers.
“You learn how to use a hammer, you learn how to read a set of blueprints, you learn how to build a machine like this, you learn how to operate it. Some basic welding,” explains Rob Daugherty, founder and CEO of PTEC.
While Daugherty teaches his students not to chase a dollar, the reality is that the graduates are in high demand by local companies.
“Unfortunately, they are offered jobs that pay more than our entry-level teachers,” Daugherty said.
The Associated General Contractors of America recently found that starting pay for non-supervisory private construction jobs rose 6% this year, the biggest jump since 1982.
Elias hopes to get his electrical certificate by the end of the year.
PTEC graduates are among those who choose to enter the workforce rather than attend college.
“For me personally, I feel it’s not the best option. I feel like it’s too much work. I want to get out of school, right? “I don’t want to pay more and go into debt when there is a better option,” he says.
A girl does not hope for college, but believes that it is not for everyone.
“If you know what to do why You’re attending a four-year school, so the power to you, I think you should go. But if you can’t answer that question, ‘What will you do with that degree?’ Then it’s time to explore other options,” he says.
The PTEC program has grown in popularity since opening in 2016, and the school will soon move into a new building that will double the number of students.
At the college level, however, enrollment is not moving in the same direction.
In the year In 2010, Metropolitan State University in Denver reached a peak of 24,000 students, but by the time the pandemic hit, enrollment had dropped to 18,917 students.
It is equivalent to a drop of around 20%.
“(Registration) was a concern until we hit the pandemic, and it’s been a concern ever since,” Von Toland explained.
Toland oversees admissions and enrollment at MSU-Denver, and 4 million fewer students are attending college nationally than in 2010.
Colorado schools haven’t seen the same decline as other states, but in a recent enrollment report, “Pathways to Prosperity,” the Colorado Division of Higher Education said ““For nearly a decade, Colorado’s college enrollment rate has remained stagnant.”.
In fact, when we look at the data, even before Covid-19 further reduced it, the percentage of seniors who went to college dropped by more than 2%.
Toland believes a college degree is still a good investment.
“People with a college degree earn, on average, a million dollars more in their lifetime than someone without a degree,” he said.
However, other graduates of today believe that the salary argument is not so convincing.
“That’s not always true,” Dougherty says.
“I don’t think it’s as true as it was 20 years ago,” said District 11 Area Superintendent Scott Mendelsberg, who oversees college and career programs.
Mendelsberg says the rising cost of tuition and fees has certainly become a barrier for many families, and students are now encouraged to keep all options open rather than focusing solely on a degree.
“As long as they have a plan, and as long as they have the opportunity to earn a livable wage through that plan, careers, not jobs, are our aspirations for our students,” he says.
Mendelsberg believes college recruiters need to convince students that higher education in D11 and elsewhere is still the smartest move.
It’s easy to give money to anyone, to any team, if you verify the results. I don’t think you can keep saying ‘give us more money’ and not show why. And I think there is a little connection between higher education institutions, not just for Colorado. I think it’s a problem across the country.
MSU-Denver has tried to sweeten the pot by waiving application fees, capping tuition and ensuring zero fees for anyone who qualifies for financial aid.
Tuition is also among the most affordable among public schools, at about $9,000 per year (not including housing), and the acceptance rate is the highest in Colorado.
In addition to additional incentives, Toland believes there needs to be a consistent message from parents and counselors to students that higher education is still the best choice.
“Everyone should be singing from the same hymn book,” he says.
Toland hopes the state will take a more active role in promoting Colorado’s colleges and universities.
Unfortunately, those higher education institutions are about to take another hit, known as the “enrollment chasm.”
Toland explained that during the recession of 2008, the birth rate dropped significantly, so between 2025 and 2029 (18 years after the recession), colleges are expecting a big dip in potential college-bound high school seniors.
Even worse, Colorado hasn’t seen its birth rate drop as drastically as parts of the Midwest or Northeast, and so it’s become a popular destination for college recruiters.
According to Toland, 50 out-of-state recruiters are currently in Colorado, making the competition for high school graduates tougher against a dwindling number of college graduates.