Why fewer students are enrolled in Minnesota colleges and universities

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Economic fears and job layoffs drove more students to college during the recession, where they polished old skills, obtained new ones, or worked on their degrees as they waited for the employment market to loosen.

MPR reports that, in another sign the recession has eased, enrollment at colleges and universities has dropped once again in Minnesota. Preliminary figures from the state Office of Higher Education show enrollment across the board has fallen by 2.7 percent just since last fall.

Colleges and universities began seeing an uptick in student numbers at the start of the recession in 2009. Students on campus peaked around 2010-11, and their numbers have been falling ever since. The story said that overall enrollment is now about where it was in 2008, just before the impact of the recession began the shift.

Those numbers reflect a national trend. In September, Deseret News reported that census data showed the number of students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities dropped by almost a half-million in 2012 after rising steadily between 2006 and 2011. The story suggested that tuition costs and concerns abut the burden of student loan debt were other factors in the slide.

The most pronounced drop in Minnesota was at for-profit-colleges, where enrollment declined by a steep 39 percent since 2009. Community college enrollment is down 2 percent since then.

Earlier this year, the Duluth News Tribune noted enrollment numbers for Lake Superior College lagged by 10 percent compared to where it had been the previous year. The University of Minnesota Duluth expected lower enrollment numbers overall, the College of St. Scholastica anticipated a smaller freshman class, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College both projected little to no growth

MPR's story says enrollment at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota is mostly flat, and down by a small percentage at UMD. But campuses in Crookston, Morris and Rochester showed growth over the past five years.

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