More Students Seek Bachelor's Degrees, Even as Policymakers Push Other Options

"Policymakers have been focusing intensely on college options that don't lead to a bachelor's degree, but new statistics suggest that those arguments aren't translating into enrollment increases in those programs," according to Education Week's High School & Beyond blog.

"Data released this week by the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks college enrollment, shows that bachelor's degree programs saw rising enrollment in the fall of 2017, while all other sectors of higher education saw continued declines.

Overall college enrollment declined 1 percent between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017, according to the NSC. That's the sixth straight year of declines, according to Inside Higher Ed. Undergraduate enrollment declined by 1.4 percent in the past year, and graduate programs by .9 percent.

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A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute urged Americans to get past their 'fixation' on the four-year college degree. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other top officials in the Trump administration have repeatedly argued that students should consider postsecondary pathways that don't require the time and debt of bachelor's degrees.

Labor-market researchers have pointed out that there are millions of good-paying jobs that don't require bachelor's degrees. (And they've also pointed out that earnings vary widely by field, and have noted that for overall lifetime earnings, the bachelor's degree is still the "gold standard.")

In that light, the declines in all areas but bachelor's degree programs are notable. A number of factors could play into the dropoffs, including a lower birth rate, rising tuition, and an economy that is drawing more young people into the workforce, according to the Hechinger Report."

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Publication Date: 1/2/2018

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