Declining college enrollment, could mean Americans choosing other career paths

SALISBURY, Md.- Nationally, undergraduate enrollment decreased by over a million students between Fall 2019 and Fall 2021, and according to the President of Salisbury’s Chamber of Commerce this decline isn’t a surprise.

“Enrollment, nationally, in colleges and universities is down 11 percent in the last ten years,” Bill Chambers, President and CEO of Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, said.

Several factors caused college enrollments to decline during the past decade, but academic experts believe steep declines in the last two years could be due to the impacts COVID-19 .

“The pandemic has changed the work dynamic, so what we are seeing with a lot of young people who decided not to go to a 4-year university or private college they’re starting their own business,” Chambers said.

Chambers said in 2015 Maryland recorded 300,000 business licenses, with that number going up to 469,000 as of a month ago. But that’s not all, Chambers also said more Americans are choosing certifications over diplomas.

“You can get certified as a radiation therapist, a dental hygienist, a paralegal, an RN, a law enforcement career is possible, so those are all a lot of jobs that we see growth in right now,” Chambers said.

Locally, Salisbury University said declining enrollment is also an issue on Delmarva.

“This past fall our numbers were definitely down, the previous year we’ve had our largest numbers ever, we were on track this past year to exceed those numbers and obviously when the pandemic hit that didn’t happen,” Beth Skoglund, SU Director of Undergraduate Admissions, said.

Despite this, they’re looking to bounce back this upcoming Fall with the help of adding virtual classes and with opportunities they offer to continue to recruit students.

“We know that if students complete a 4-year degree certainly they are marketable to the workforce at a much higher rate, they usually are making more money,” Skoglund said.

And, when we spoke with one SU student he told 47ABC, while he chose college many other career and education tracks can make a difference as well.

“Do what it is that you love,” Dorien Rogers, an SU Senior, said. “When you’re talking about trade schools, when you’re talking about military, when you’re talking about all these other routes it should be encouraged because those are jobs that are crucial to our livelihood as Americans.”

And, while Chambers said he doesn’t see the trend reversing of Americans taking other avenues, rather than a 4-year degree, he thinks it’s important for colleges to re-invent themselves, especially if schools are a big money maker for the area.

“Declining enrollment means less input into the local economy, employees working for the university or college, less discretionary spending that that student population brings to a community,” Chambers said.

Salisbury University said for this upcoming Fall semester they are actually already seeing an increase over the last year in all the areas, including applications, admits, and deposits for both Freshman and Transfers.

Chambers also said before the pandemic businesses were already leaning towards tele-work and automation, so he thinks universities that can adapt towards that will succeed.

Categories: Local News, Maryland