Freshmen enrollment at US colleges and universities has plummeted by more than 16 percent from last year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported. Community colleges saw enrollment drop by nearly a quarter.
Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director, conceded that would-be students may have opted for gap years, deferred admissions, or decided to work for a year before enrolling.
The data also showed a 22.7 percent decline in enrollment to community colleges from last year. Since the community college system is where most minorities have the opportunity to enter the higher education system, it is believed that this particular decline is influenced by how these groups have been disproportionately hit by the virus.
Terry Hartle, the senior vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education, acknowledged that the drop may indicate worry that campuses are not safe from the pandemic. However, his main concern is that this will have an effect on the continuity of education for minorities.
“People who interrupt their education with the intention of completing it later don’t always do so,” he explained to the New York Times. “The progress we’ve made in expanding education to lower income students could be undermined.”
Mitigating Pandemic’s Effects
The grim statistics have been caused by the threat of the coronavirus that continues to blindside the country’s higher education system.
America’s schools have taken different measures to mitigate the pandemic’s effects. Some chose to hold most or all of their classes online, while others pushed through with in-person instruction, implementing a variety of measures aimed at containing the virus.
Since the start of the pandemic, over 178,000 students have been infected at more than 1,400 colleges, according to the New York Times’ COVID college tracker.
Social gatherings, extracurricular activities, and varsities have been affected. Additionally, 29 games in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the premier tier for college football, have been postponed or rescheduled due to virus-related reasons.