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The Blue & Gray Press | October 21, 2017

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Drop in college attendees can be attributed to lack of financial aid, online courses

Drop in college attendees can be attributed to lack of financial aid, online courses

By LAUREN TAYLOR

The next few years is expected to hold some changes in attendance for Virginia universities, according to a report by The Huffington Post and a projection detailed in The Richmond Times- Dispatch. The number of students enrolling in colleges may decrease, as is the number of students who complete their degree programs.

According to The Huffington Post, fewer students are completing college. The newest reports from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that only 52 percent of students who enrolled in college are completing their degree programs. This study allows up to six years for a student to count as graduated, and in only two years, this number has dropped from 57 percent.

Both before this study, and especially now in response to this report, President Obama has declared a “great imperative” to individual families that graduating high school students should pursue post-secondary education. Education beyond high school is being encouraged by the President as “a national interest.”

Junior English major Chris Leach links the decrease in college attendance to tuition and other costs. “Money is a big part of it,” Leach said. “It is very financially demanding.” For students who cannot afford college tuition, Leach said he has friends who had chosen not to go to college and work full-time instead.

“I’ve had friends who didn’t go to college because it was so expensive and get a job instead as an alternative,” Leach said. “Even for people who leave before graduation, [working is] better than paying a bunch of money.”

Students’ needs must be put first to instigate a change. Small changes in a student’s life can lead to a critical funds shortfall, which may result in the individual putting their education on hold.

To ensure that students will return to college, institutions must stand ready to supply them with emergency funding through the forms of scholarships and grants. Just a few hundred dollars could make the difference between a student staying in school and being forced to leave because of financial difficulty.

There are some resources currently available to students who are under a financial tightening or crisis. One important step to take is applying for scholarships, both local and national, through outside sources.

The university also tries to work with students to accommodate their needs. UMW’s Financial Aid Office is always available to students to call, email, or visit and welcome questions. The university’s goal, as is many other institutions’, is to have students succeed and graduate. According to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia colleges are said to have a slower growth rate. The state also has fewer students applying to schools within the next six years.

However, private institutions expect to meet their goal of “increasing the number of Virginians with college credentials” through online programs, present at schools like Regent University and Liberty University.

Both two-year and four-year public schools are expecting a 5 percent increase by the 2021- 2022 school year. There are four schools in the state that expect a decline in enrollment. However, nonprofit higher education institutions expect enrollment to increase by 32 percent.

This is largely due to the growth of online programs, namely at Liberty and Regent Universities. These projections have begun raising concerns throughout the state. One of the major goals for the state of Virginia to meet is the “economic demand for a more educated workforce,” according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Director, Peter Blake.

One way that the University of Mary Washington plans to counteract any possible decrease in enrollment is through advertising. The school has already placed a television ad airing on several national channels, showcasing the university to students who may not know about the school.

The commercial also advertises the uniqueness that the school has and the special majors that are not available at other schools across the country. The school is showing off its grand features, from academics to athletics, to draw in possible applicants.

Secondary institutions around the state may want to follow in the footsteps of Liberty University and Regent University and consider adding more online classes if they wish to further their increasing enrollment numbers. Presenting more options to earn a degree could also give students a greater chance of completing college and reaching their desired careers.