Declining college enrollment could mean rising economy

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Enrollment in West Virginia’s public four-year colleges and universities is down this semester, continuing a four-year trend. Could it be, as some explain, a sign of an improving economy?

The Charleston Gazette recently reported on new figures from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission that found enrollment declined 1.6 percent from 2013 to 2014. The data does not include private or technical schools.

Since 2010, enrollment has declined by more than 3,000 students, according to the Gazette.

Enrollment is down at West Virginia University, Fairmont State University and Glenville State College. Marshall University saw a negligible increase of 20 students.

Higher Education Policy Commission spokeswoman Jessica Tice told the Gazette that college enrollment increases when there is an economic downturn and it slacks off when more people find jobs.

Across the country, the Census Bureau notes a 2.3 percent drop in four-year college enrollment — about 463,000 students — in 2013. The drop was worse in two-year colleges at 9.6 percent.

This follows a spike in enrollment of 3.2 million during the great recession.

Census official Kurt Bauman told Bloomberg that the economy plays a role.

“There’s some research that associates economic hard times with growth in college enrollment,” Bauman said. “Now there’s a fallback.”

Many experts cite the cyclical nature of college enrollment and its tie to the health of the economy…

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