College dreams are no longer what they used to be.

By that year, 18-year-old high school graduate Jason Neuharth was attending a technical school in his home state of Minnesota.

“I was determined to go to college – this would be my future,” he said.

But the last 12 months, when Neuharth mostly stayed at home a few days a week and went to school in person, had plenty of time to reconsider, he said.

“I grew up on not a lot of money and that was a fear of mine – the money,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to pay for college.”

Instead, Neuharth joined the National Guard with an eight-year commitment. “That second option, that jail-free card that was the military, seemed like a no-brainer.”

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A year after the coronavirus crisis began, many high school graduates have dramatically changed their expectations for the future.

A recent survey of high school students found that the likelihood of attending four-year school has dropped nearly 20% in the past eight months – from 71% to 53%, according to the ECMC Group, a nonprofit that helps student borrowers should.

According to the report, high schoolers place more emphasis on professional training and employment after college.

More than half of those surveyed said they could achieve professional success with three years of study or less, and only a quarter believe that a four-year degree is the only way to get a good job. The ECMC Group surveyed more than 1,000 students three times last year.

Even before the pandemic, families began to question the return on investment, said Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of the ECMC Group.

“”There will be a settlement here.“”

There will be a settlement here.

Jeremy Wheaton

President and CEO of the ECMC Group

Price is increasingly an issue.

Tuition and housing, as well as room and board, for a four-year private college averaged $ 50,770 for the 2020-21 school year. It was $ 22,180 at four-year public colleges, according to the College Board, which tracks trends in college awards and grants.

The significant rise in college costs over the past few decades has outpaced both inflation and, more significantly, family income.

After the sharp economic slowdown from Covid, most students and parents say affordability and managing the debt burden that often comes with a degree are their top concerns, according to The Princeton Review’s 2021 College Hopes & Worries survey.

For college students and their parents, a whopping 98% of families said financial assistance was necessary to pay for college, and 82% said it was “extremely” or “very” necessary, according to the Princeton Review.

A majority of students also said they are now applying to colleges with lower sticker prices. Another third said they would apply to colleges closer to home. The Princeton Review interviewed more than 14,093 people: approximately 80% were college applicants and 20% were parents of applicants.

Students dream of going to college, said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of Princeton Review and author of “The Best 385 Colleges”. “But in fact, so many will be staying within a three-hour drive.”

Distance learning made it almost impossible for many students to justify the cost. From the start, students were extremely dissatisfied with virtual learning, especially at the same high cost they had previously paid for face-to-face training.

At George Washington University, approximately 10% of freshmen decided not to enroll when the school announced that its campus would be closed for the fall semester. (George Washington was one of the few schools that offered a discount on tuition fees for students studying remotely.)

“”Like most universities, the pandemic has been a very significant blow to our student body and finances, “said Jay Goff, vice provost for enrollment at George Washington.

In 2020, colleges announced hundreds of millions of millions of dollars in lost revenue as some 500,000 prospective college students completely de-registered. (The government will send an additional $ 40 billion to the country’s colleges and universities after President Joe Biden signed the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief act on Friday.)

“We understand that schools are in a difficult position, but so are students and parents,” said Franek of the Princeton Review.

Overall, student numbers fell more than 4% this year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with freshmen showing the biggest drop in the fall, down 13% year over year.

There is no quick turnaround in sight as the number of students is falling due to the pandemic.

Doug Shapiro

Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

“There is no quick turnaround in sight as the number of students declines due to the pandemic,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Shapiro said he expected further declines in the fall of 2021, “but hopefully less steep”.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to get learners back into higher education, especially among disadvantaged groups who have the most problems,” he said.

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