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Why are more students opting out of going to college?

Data from the state of Tennessee and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show the numbers for post-secondary education enrollment dropping.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New numbers show nearly half of Tennessee's high school seniors aren't going to college or technical school right after they graduate.

It's the lowest rate in the past 10 years, and Shelby County seems to be following the trend.

Tennessee state data

ABC24 looked at data from the state of Tennessee and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The numbers show 47.2% of students are opting out of higher education.

In 2015, the Tennessee Promise Scholarship debuted, and post-graduation college enrollment peaked at 64%.

But the latest number show, nearly 53% of men graduating from high school didn't attend college in the fall. And since 2019, both Black graduates and Latino graduates have seen a 11% drop in enrollment.

Shelby County data

So where do Memphis-Shelby County students fall when it comes to graduates moving on to higher education?

Post-secondary enrollment has consistently dropped over the last four years.

According to the state’s Shelby County Report Card, in 2017, 57% of students went on to college - including community, 4-year, and technical options. And in 2018, the numbers increased.

But then in 2019, 4% less of Memphis and Shelby County high schoolers enrolled in post-secondary learning. In 2020, there was a 2% drop. And in 2021 was the lowest post-secondary rate in five years, with only 45% of MSCS students moving on to more education.

Why are fewer students going to college?

They may need a break. A labor economics professor at the University of Tennessee said two things contribute:

Changes to the college experience - the pandemic has made the way students interact on campus drastically different.

For those who had issues with online learning, they said they want a break until in-person classes return to pre-pandemic ways.

Time constraints, childcare, and economic uncertainty also play a factor into the decisions not to go on to college.

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