Patrick Crane, Oregon’s Director of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, blamed everything but the colleges for their shrinking enrollment in an interview with the Register Guard earlier this month.
“When there’s a recession, more people come [to school.] When the recession ends, more people are working,” Crane said to the Register Guard. The idea is that when the economy is doing well, people are more likely to get jobs they enjoy and therefore not seek out higher education.
The economy is certainly doing well, state economists have reported that there are 5,000 jobs being created per month, but Oregon has a high percentage of part-time workers and many new jobs are low wage. I agree that this is a strong factor, but it certainly isn’t the full picture.
Crane then went on to tell the Register Guard that fewer Oregon students are graduating from high school in recent years, which is a perfectly valid reason as to why colleges in general are getting fewer students.
Then, he blamed Latinos, citing how they attend college at a lesser rate than their peers and are becoming a larger percentage of the high school student body. This is a completely bogus reason.
If we look at the 2015-16 Fall Membership Report for K-12 students in Oregon we see that there are indeed 1.22 percent more Latino students than the previous year. But there were also more people of every race except for Native Americans who saw a 4 percent decline in enrollment.
In other words, it’s not as if Latino students replaced the other students, there are just more students than there were before, so they are not to blame whatsoever.
I think what is driving people away from attending college more are things like textbook prices and the student debt crisis. People, rightfully so, don’t like the idea of taking out loans to buy a $200 textbook that has a resale value of around 20 percent of that cost if you are lucky. Then after accumulating an average of $30,100 in student debt, there is a fear that their field may not be hiring and they will be working the same job they could’ve gotten without their degree, just with crushing debt instead.
There is a dark side to college that we don’t talk about enough, and if people like Patrick Crane don’t even acknowledge that then it will be impossible to remedy those issues.