Colleges face a post-recession enrollment drop — but not in Idaho

Blame it on the hangover from the Great Recession: College enrollment is likely to drop nationwide in the next decade.

But Idaho is an outlier, one of only a handful of states likely to see an increase.

“When the financial crisis hit in 2008, young people viewed that economic uncertainty as a cause for reducing fertility,” said Nathan Grawe, an economist with Carleton College in Minnesota, in an interview with The Hechinger Report. “The number of kids born from 2008 to 2011 fell precipitously. Fast forward 18 years to 2026 and we see that there are fewer kids reaching college-going age.”

Nationwide, Grawe forecasts a 15 percent decline in college enrollment between 2025 and 2029.

But by 2029, seven states are likely to see enrollment increase by at least 2.5 percent, when compared to 2011. That list includes Idaho, California, Colorado, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming.

The projected enrollment declines could have mixed effects on students and schools, Grawe told The Hechinger Report.

On the one hand, students might have an easier time getting admitted to colleges, as schools relax their admissions standards to draw from a shrinking pool of applicants. On the other hand, colleges and universities might be forced to cut liberal arts programs in favor of professional programs that students believe will prepare them for a high-paying job.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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