KBTX Interviews Dennis Jansen on Higher Education Enrollment

Dec 08, 2020
Summary: Director Dennis Jansen discussed higher education enrollment in an interview on KBTX news on Monday, December 7, 2020.
In an economic recession, enrollment in both public and private 2-year and 4-year colleges typically increases. However, preliminary enrollment counts for the Fall semester of 2020, both nationally and in Texas, have surprisingly declined.
Jansen explained, “…During a recession, we would always say, ‘When unemployment increases, college enrollment’s going to increase’ – and that’s been a long-term pattern. Economists would explain it as a response to your opportunity cost. If you’re unemployed, you’re not going to lose wages by going to school, which is typically what would happen. You can’t often work, [not] full-time at least, and go to school. But if you’re unemployed, that cost is gone, and also, you’re training for future employment. But this year, this recession is different in so many ways, and we’ve seen enrollment decline and actually plummet at some institutions during this downturn.”
Locally, Texas A&M University’s enrollment actually increased 3% from the same time last year, which can be partially attributed to an over-supply of applicants versus those who are admitted.
Jansen shared another reason for A&M’s success. “I also think that [the] Texas A&M Administration saw some problems early on and took steps to address them…International student enrollment is down here, and I think it is down like 13%, which is a lot, and first-time graduate students, which is related to international student enrollment, is down by 3.5%. So, we have an increase in transfer students, which are mostly undergrads, of 20%. So, I think you can see that the A&M Administration took some actions that might have mitigated what could have otherwise been a decline in enrollment.”
Blinn College has fared much worse, with enrollment falling 10.4% from fall 2019.
Speaking about future enrollment, Jansen said “Well, I certainly think the [Covid-19] vaccinations would help, and will help. And I think that the vaccinations will restore a bit of normalcy both to the college enrollment issues and to college life and to the economy as a whole.”
For the economy as a whole, Jansen expects that we may be in store for a longer recovery period.
This story was based on PERC’s blog post, “Higher Education Takes A Hit.”
To see the news story on KBTX, click here.