These data give us insight into questions that we must dig into to get underneath the calculations the students made that are reflected in the data.
In his role as chair of the board of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, JFF Vice President Michael Collins is involved in an effort to track the impact COVID-19 is having on postsecondary enrollments.
In its first monthly report, the initiative—called Stay Informed With the Latest Enrollment Information—revealed that while enrollment is up in graduate programs, undergraduate enrollment fell as schools shifted to online-only sessions over the summer, with the biggest declines at community colleges, for-profit schools, and rural institutions, and among Black undergraduates and male undergraduates.
Quoted in a recent National Student Clearinghouse blog post discussing the project, Collins said these declines raise many questions that policymakers and higher education leaders need to address.
“These data give us insight into questions that we must dig into to get underneath the calculations the students made that are reflected in the data,” Collins said. “One important area of inquiry is the mix of programs that declined in enrollments. If the declines were in programs that lead to immediate employment in high-wage jobs, this is a huge problem that needs urgent attention.”
“If on the other hand the declines were in programs that, suddenly, no longer lead to good quality jobs then they may be the result of students pivoting, for good reasons, to other career plans. In addition, the graduate increases of Black and Latinx students are an important story line that raises other questions about economic opportunity and advancement for students of color.”