College enrollment sees declines for fifth straight year

College enrollment declined for the fifth year in a row this fall, as people increasingly choose to work or head to technical college.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate and graduate enrollment was down 1.4 percent over last year. 

In Minnesota, enrollment was down 2.5 percent from last year, while Wisconsin saw a four percent drop.

“In the past five years, we’ve reached this point where people are seriously thinking is it worth going to college and spending that money, or should I just keep working and build a career that way,” said University of St. Thomas finance professor David Vang.

Vang says the improved economy means fewer young professionals are going back to get graduate degrees. He credits this not only to the availability of jobs, but many companies dropping continuing education incentives during the recession.

“With the economy doing well, you have fewer unemployed people who are thinking well I’m not working anyway, let’s go to school to improve my prospects.” 

Dan Meyer, Vice President for enrollment management at the University of St. Thomas says the mid-west region saw sharp declines of around six to eight percent.

Meyer is constantly watching enrollment trends and says demographics play into the decline.

“The pool of available graduates is shrinking which means we have less students to recruit,” said Meyer who has watched the number of graduating seniors shrink the last several years.

Meyer says for-profit colleges were included in the research, which is pulling the numbers down as distrust in such institutions only grows.

“Many of those schools over promised and under delivered so many students said there’s got to be a better way to get an education,” said Meyer.

Both Meyer and Vang agree rising tuition is also a factor, but both point out that colleges often offer assistance for those who choose a four year degree. As educators, the men don’t want to discount the immense value a college degree can have.

“See what the typical discount will be offered to you, you might be surprised at what the cost might be,” said Vang.