The Department of Education's predictions about college enrollment may overestimate the number of students in 2023 by 5-7 million.
At what point will President Donald Trump's Department of Education realize that US higher education is facing dramatic losses in enrollment, and that their rosy projections are so wrong?
According to the National Student Clearinghouse, higher education enrollment has declined by 2.4 million students since 2010-2011. And the greatest losses have come from community colleges, which have experienced a 1.6 million student decline.
The US Department of Education, however, projects a consistent upward trend in enrollment despite acknowledging consistent losses from 2011 to 2015.
Optimistic analysts suggest that the enrollment declines are the result of an improved economy, where jobs are more prevalent. But this pollyanna analysis belies the underlying problems in higher education and the greater economy that I have been chronicling on LinkedIn and College Meltdown.
Check out the 40 hardest hit US public 2-year institutions and you will see a pattern of government austerity, localized depressions, increasing inequality and an eroding K-12 pipeline.
Now, more than 15 indicators of the college meltdown have hit yellow or red lights. Revenues, the only green light in my analysis, appear to be in decline. Increasing student loan interest rates and reductions in need based funding may also accelerate the meltdown faster than my original models.
While elite colleges and brand name state universities continue to do well, for-profit colleges, community colleges, small private rural colleges, second-tier state colleges and HBCUs face major headwinds.
To make matters worse, public opinion about colleges has been worsening, especially among Republicans and the white working class. Whether this has already affected enrollment numbers has not been thoroughly investigated.
Inside Higher Education was bold enough to post a piece titled "What Happens If Higher Ed Collapses." But how many people read Inside Higher Education?
Potential political and cultural clashes this fall on college campuses may also worsen public opinion.
There are some positive developments happening, such as free community college in Oregon, Tennessee, New York, and Rhode Island, but this is not enough to remedy the destructive developments of defunding, deregulation, and privatization proposed by the Trump Administration.