President Joe Biden’s college debt reforms aren’t enough to get people back in the classroom. According to an October report from the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment fell 1.1 percent in the fall of 2022. Enrollment is down 6.5 percent since the start of the pandemic, which equates to more than 1.5 million students .
“Although the decline has slowed and there are some bright spots, a path back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels is increasingly out of reach,” National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Executive Director Doug Shapiro said in the report.
The pandemic is one of many that have contributed to the slump in college enrollment. Historically high tuition costs, student loan debt, changing age demographics, and the availability of jobs that don’t require a college degree all work against the higher education system.
In August, Biden announced a student loan forgiveness plan that would provide $10,000 in federal student loans to borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and up to $20,000 for borrowers who received Pell grants. The program was halted by a federal appeals court ruling on Friday while invitations from six states are reviewed.
“We’re going to win this case. I think in the next couple of weeks you’re going to see these audits come to an end,” Biden said in an interview with Nexstar’s Reshad Hudson.
On October 21, Biden said that in the first week the application was available, 22 million Americans had applied.
The Education Data Initiative, a research group that collects and consolidates data on the U.S. education system, estimates that in 2021, the average cost of attendance per student is $35,551, which includes tuition, textbooks and other living expenses.
The numbers can be even higher when broken down by in-state or out-of-state tuition and private versus public schools. For a single academic year, an in-state student at a public 4-year institution is estimated to spend over $25,000. On average, in-state tuition costs over $9,000 and out-of-state tuition averages just over $27,000.
Private nonprofit institutions average nearly $37,000 in tuition and fees. For one academic year, a student at a private nonprofit institution is estimated to spend nearly $55,000.
Many institutions advertise with the caveat that most students do not pay the full cost of tuition and counter that once scholarships, grants, and loans are added in, students are only responsible for a fraction of the cost.
Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA, was recently named the most expensive college in America by the National Center for Education Statistics. The average cost of attendance in 2022-2023 at Harvey Mudd is $84,896 per year. The school, however, boasts that 70% of students receive some form of financial aid, either through scholarships, grants, or loans.
Loan forgiveness is one step in getting students back in the classroom, but $10,000 or $20,000 turns out to be just a drop in the bucket for massive student debt. US student loan debt totals over $1.745 trillion, with over 42.8 million borrowers. US News and World Report estimated that the average American student loan debt in 2022 is about $30,000.
More students are graduating from high school with the worry that a college degree no longer holds the same value it did for their parents. A recent Federal Reserve survey found that of Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 45, more than 4 in 10 don’t think their education was worth the cost.
The nonprofit group ECMC surveyed more than 1,000 college students and found that 51 percent of Gen Z said they were considering getting a college degree, down 20 percent from 2020. Additionally, the United States fell in the global rankings from second to 16 in the population of 25-35 year olds with a university degree since 2000.
“Today’s students have experienced the impact of the pandemic and want to forge their own path — one that’s shorter, more accessible and directly connected to a career — especially a career in a field that needs workers,” the president said. and ECMC Group CEO Jeremy Wheaton.
It’s too early to tell if Biden’s loan forgiveness will push more students toward higher education, but as of now it looks like Americans will need more than $10,000 to motivate themselves to get their degrees.