The Ivy Coach Daily

May 26, 2022

The Elite University Exception to Declining Enrollment

Elite colleges continue to be the exception to the rule, not the rule.

College enrollment may be down at colleges across America — but not at the highly selective institutions. You see, we’ve come across a number of articles in recent weeks that focus on a pattern of declining enrollment figures at America’s colleges. These pieces so often fail to distinguish that America’s elite universities are the exceptions to this pattern. It’s why we applaud Stephanie Saul of The New York Times for her piece out today entitled “College Enrollment Drops, Even as the Pandemic’s Effects Ebb.” And why? Saul makes a point of highlighting that enrollment is not down at our nation’s elite universities as applicants continue to clamor for each available seat.

As Saul writes, “Overall, total undergraduate enrollment has dropped by nearly 1.4 million — or 9.4 percent — during the pandemic. When the pandemic emerged in spring 2020, many colleges moved to online instruction, and some students did not report to campus at all, changes that considerably altered the traditional college experience. Even before the pandemic, though, college enrollment had been dropping nationally, with institutions of higher learning buffeted by demographic changes, as the number of college-age students leveled off, as well as questions about student debt. A highly polarizing immigration debate also drove away international students. While elite colleges and universities have continued to attract an overflow of applicants, the pandemic has been devastating for many public universities, particularly community colleges, which serve many low- and moderate-income students.”

We’ve said on the pages of this college admissions blog for many years that a degree from many — in fact, most — of America’s hundreds of universities isn’t worth the paper it’s written on since it will often not help on the job market as these young people accrue enormous debt from college loans. Indeed we are not proponents of attending college for the sake of attending college. In many cases, trade school might be right for a young person — or simply starting one’s career out of high school. But a degree from an elite university? Well, that’s a difference-maker on the job market. We’ve highlighted time and again on the pages of this blog the direct influence that attending an elite university has on one’s career prospects. As college enrollment declines at America’s several hundred colleges, that has never been more true.

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