More than 44 million American college grads owe a total of nearly $2 trillion in college debt, which will take individuals an average of almost 20 years to pay off. Dr. Jay Greene, a senior education research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, says that's an increasing deterrent for would-be college students.
"For a lot of people, it's irrational to go to college because the return on the investment is negative," he explains. "And interestingly, this is increasingly true for men when we're seeing that male enrollment in higher education is dropping considerably."
A Fox-affiliated TV station in Boston reports that an abundance of job openings is causing more young people to opt for vocational training over a traditional college experience. But Greene notes that associate degrees in vocational schools also have mounting obstacles.
"So for example, you can no longer just be a nurse without a B.A. – you now need a B.A. You can't be a dental hygienist without a B.A. – you need a B.A.," he says. "So, all of these jobs that didn't require a B.A. before are beginning to require it."
The National Student Clearinghouse reported last month that undergraduate enrollment has declined nearly 8% over the last two years – and that community college enrollment over the same period has dropped almost twice that. In light of those numbers, Greene says he thinks higher education is in some serious trouble.