Abandoning admissions?

College application rates are dropping across the country


Photo by Allyson Arnold

Due to COVID-19, college applications dropped greatly as students made decisions to take gap years.

Story by Sophie Keller, Webmaster

College enrollment rates have been declining in recent years. This is in part due to the still lingering effects of COVID-19; however, there is more to this problem.

“The pandemic saw lots of kids taking a gap year,” Assistant Principal Bettie Lynn Stark said. “Because of the opportunities of going off to a big four year university if you were going to be at home because of the pandemic–just the benefit of the experience and exposure to a diverse world of people–was limited by you not being able to gather together in a place so I think a lot of students started off with a gap year.”

Between 2020 and 2022, colleges saw a mere 3.2% drop in enrollment according to preliminary data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This minute number may seem inconsequential on paper; however, when actual people are added to the equation, that percentage equates to “more than one million fewer students enrolled in college.”

During the fall of 2021, that number was still 1.1%. This shows that while life has returned to normal and things are getting better, the aftermath of COVID is still causing problems.

“I think it kind of leveled off and it’s not as much of a decline,” Stark said. “I think students are starting to think that things are returning to normal, and so I think more students are going [to college], but I think a lot of times students are exploring opportunities to take that gap year.”

However, in contrast to the decline of undergraduate enrollment over the past two years, graduate enrollment saw an increase in fall of 2021 followed by a decline once more the following year. It’s uncertain what exactly triggered this.

College isn’t for everyone and perhaps COVID was the chance some students needed to find their own path. But whether students continue to take gap years or they forge on ahead to college, there is no doubt that things are improving. 

“I think we’re getting back to normal,” Stark said. “So I think next year you’ll see it go back up. You know, I don’t know if we’ll make up for the grounds. I don’t know if those students who didn’t go will ever come back. I guess they may have determined other opportunities and have other plans by now.”

Texas schools were luckier than some states when it came to student enrollment. They didn’t experience as much of a decline as the rest of the country.