Many Americans are skipping college and going straight to hourly work—to avoid high tuition costs and lingering debt.
- In the U.S., undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines continuing even after returning to in-person classes, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.
- The reduction of students deciding to attend college since 2018 has had the sharpest drop on record.
- Student debt in the U.S. has reached $1.757 trillion, with 92.4% of all debt being outstanding student loans.
- The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,574, while the total average balance, including private loan debt, might be as high as $39,590, according to Education Data Initiative, a small team of researchers with a mission to collect and organize data about the U.S. education system.
Why it’s news
The 2020 pandemic has changed many things, and the newest change to play out is that fewer students are choosing to go to college.
Students nationwide were forced to do online schooling during and after the pandemic causing mass school burnout. Also, during that time, President Joe Biden made the nearly $2 trillion worth of student-loan debt a national conversation by proposing to forgive much of it, making many children scared of debt.
Between learning to do school themselves and fearing high tuition and lingering debt costs, many U.S. students started to skip college and go straight to the workforce.
As many quit working during the pandemic, jobs offered huge bonuses to entice workers to apply, and wages were higher than ever. Many students realized they could make a steady paycheck doing restaurant or retail work and not have to receive higher education.
Although many students were making signicant paychecks, those who do not have a degree tend to make 75% less over their lifetime compared to those with a bachelor’s degree, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Many are also convinced that the number of students forgoing college will continue to increase as America pushes toward EV adoption, and as huge factories open nationwide students will go straight into factory work to make a living.