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Articles and Reports to Read About the College Enrollment Crisis

Image of a college classroom full of empty chairs.

MCAN and local college access networks around the state have been trying to help people understand the importance of declining college enrollments in Michigan, and why it’s a looming crisis that will impact our economy, the talent futures of Michigan companies, and ultimately, the futures of our youth.

If you want to do a deep dive into the data behind the college enrollment crisis, here are 11 articles and reports filled with meaningful data and perspectives to get you thinking and spur dialogue.

Data to help you understand the big picture

1. The economy is getting even worse for Americans with a high school diploma or less education, The Washington Post, January 27, 2021.

2. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s High School Benchmarks report found in fall 2020 there was a -2.5% change in college enrollment as a whole compared to the previous year in all sectors including public and private two- and four-year institutions. The same report paints a more alarming picture when we look at first year enrollments and students enrolling directly after high school. Overall, in fall of 2020, postsecondary enrollment for students enrolling directly from high school declined by 21.7%.

3. The Looming Enrollment Crisis report from The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2019 gives a pre-COVID look at data from 262 enrollment officers about their anxieties and optimism for the future, and presents 10 case studies of how colleges and universities are adapting.

4. A crisis is looming for U.S. colleges -- and not just because of the pandemic from NBC News, August 4, 2020.

5. Dramatic Drop in College Persistence Latest Sign of COVID’s ‘Missing Generation’ of College Students from The 74

Data to help you understand equity implications

6. Michigan has stark racial disparities in educational attainment, ranks third-worst in nation for number of bachelor degrees earned by Black students from the Michigan League for Public Policy, May 29, 2020.

7. A Stronger Nation report by the Lumina Foundation reported six years after high school graduation, significantly fewer Black, Hispanic and Native American students earned a post-secondary certificate or degree compared to white and Asian students.

8. Applications for Next Year’s Freshman Class Are on the Rise — With Warning Signs for Equity from The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28, 2021.

9. The Real Covid-19 Enrollment Crisis: Fewer Low-Income Students Went Straight to College from The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2020.

10. The Pandemic Is Speeding Up The Mass Disappearance Of Men From College from GBH News, January 19, 2021.

11. ‘Precursor for the Fall’ College enrollments declined sharply this summer among Black undergraduates and men, and at community colleges and rural institutions, raising worries about the fall and worsening equity gaps from Inside Higher Ed, September 1, 2020.

12. It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students from American Progress, September 28, 2020.

13. The Missing Men from The Chronical of Higher Education, July 1, 2021

These are far from new topics for the MCAN team and many of our partners. Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss sounded the alarm last summer about the college enrollment crisis in Michigan in a number of articles, including a guest piece for the Lansing State Journal, Don’t let COVID stall college enrollment: One more Michigan crisis coming down the pike?, as well as a separate blog post, College enrollment must bounce back for our economy to do the same.

MCAN has a full presentation of data on the College Enrollment Crisis in Michigan that can also be leveraged to help raise awareness and education. Want to learn more or have a member of our team present to your group, staff, board of directors, school board or other stakeholders? Contact Marilyn Washington, MCAN’s operations assistant.



This toolkit contains social media graphics and cut-and-paste captions that will help raise awareness around the college enrollment crisis. It includes MCAN-branded graphics as well as graphics that can be customized in Canva with your own logo.

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MCAN and local college access networks around the state have been trying to help people understand the importance of declining college enrollments in Michigan.