What is the reason for lower US college enrollment?

It’s no secret that the US has less college graduates now than several other industrialized nations. And it’s no secret how poorly US high school students have been doing compared to their counterparts in several countries, industrialized or not.

What I’m wondering is, does lower US college graduation have more to do with poor academic performance, or the extremely high cost of going to school in the US?

I live in Germany right now, and the average German pays 500 Euro per semester for college. This is much lower than US students have to pay. I know many other European countries have low college costs too. Canada is, for the most part, also cheaper than the US. I would argue that US colleges and universities are still among the best in the world, but why is it becoming harder for US students to access that education?

Answer #1

High school kids doing so badly?

My guess is the following social trends:

  1. people have less real friends now than 30 years ago
  2. people commute for 30 min more per day on average than 30 years ago
  3. wage growth relative to food, housing, and fuel has been stagnant or decreasing - eg, your personal annual salary compared to the cost of a house is far FAR less than it was 30 years ago.
  4. People are working an average of 2 hours more / week at their job than they used to.

Add it up, and it spells less time for family & friends…and yes, the money is going to the rich as opposed to the poor. Did Bush really need a 450K salary instead of the measily 250K that Bill Clinton got?

Nope. But we’re talking reasons for the lower college enrollment - I was working 20+ hours / week at our family business from 16-18 when I left home, and working summers 35+ hours / week as well. Also I was doing after school activities, and the way I got my first car was by working.

in my opinion, a creative, hard working kid can do these things - in some ways it’s easier than ever. However, as a culture, I think we have “american idol syndrome” lol, people want to sit on their (cough) tookus and suddenly get their big break, and actually believe in the overnight success myth.

Answer #2

Costs of higher education vs inflation have tripled. Eg, every year I was in school the fees went up by 10-13%, which (at the time) was triple the rate of inflation on an annual basis.

My parents couldn’t afford college, so I had to take on debt & grants to get by, and spent the four years I was in school extremely poor.

Then, when I graduated, I found out that if I’d skipped school & lied about getting a degree, I would have been eligible for the same jobs (no, I wouldn’t recommend doing this) but it did give me pause. I burned (literally) my college degree and was quite upset about it for a while afterwards.

And, I’m the first one in my family for more than 3 generations to get a 4 year degree. Kind of ironic that I was so unappreciative of that symbolic piece of paper eh?

Back to the topic: it’s the cost. With fees rising (no, not college professor salaries, but university FEES) the costs have spiraled out of control. And when you consider that costs have outpaced inflation even in recent years, grants as a portion of the package have declined, and incomes have been flat to down country wide over the last 8 years…well, there’s no question: it’s getting harder & harder for people to get a higher education.

Answer #3

Well first thing that needs to be addressed is why are highschool students doing so badly? the US puts in a lot of money towards education, so why aren’t kids doing as well? Could it be because of the huge inequality in wealth? so the richest kids are getting a superior education? while the poorest barely get one?

Answer #4

“However, as a culture, I think we have ‘american idol syndrome’ “

Talking with my parents, they tell me that 30 or 40 years ago, astronauts were one of the most admired professions, not singers and actors. Even though not everyone went into that field, it definately attracted a lot of people to science and engineering, which of course was good for the country. Times have sure changed. Everyone’s got Hollywood stars in their eyes.

I have to agree that those factors you listed are part of the reason many public schools are in decline. In other countries, parents, teachers, and even business leaders are VERY heavily involved in the public education system. In this country, parents are absent, teachers are scared by legal issues, and big business couldn’t care less how their future employees are educated, so long as they are.

I also agree that education is overpriced, however as you say it is still very possible in this country to afford college. It involves getting a part time job, which there are many, and it also involves sitting down at the library for a few hours and researching scholarships. I read somewhere that literally billions of dollars get thrown away every year because nobody applies for scholarships. And they’re in all kinds of fields, not just for the academically gifted. And the government still offers quite a few loans and grant programs, despite the reshuffling of priorities under the Bush regime.

So I’m hesitant to think it’s just the price of education. I think it’s also that our culture isn’t prioritizing a college education as much as it should. It isn’t prioritizing education in general, for that matter. That being said, there is another trend to consider, and that is many people in their 30s and 40s are going back to college, upgrading their skills and education. Changes in the work force are requiring this, but it is intresting to me that your typical college student isn’t necessarily the 18-22 year old.

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