Enrollment at state universities in Pennsylvania sees lull

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EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are seeing the largest drop in enrollment in more than three decades.

A dramatic decrease brings enrollment rates to their lowest level since 1989. 12 of the 14 state universities saw an enrollment decrease, with only Mansfield and Cheyney Universities seeing a slight uptick.

This is the 12th year in a row enrollment has declined, but the overall student count decreased by more than five percent in this last year alone and East Stroudsburg University (ESU) is seeing the same trend.

“People are now making more money at home. People don’t see the use of higher education because making more money at home, people don’t want to go to college because they say it’s more work on themselves and a financial burden,” said ESU student Noah Jordan.

Last year, just over 5,800 students attended ESU. When you compare that to a decade prior, the total headcount for 2010-2011 was more than 7,300. Some say it’s because of advancements in technology.

“A lot of people are more connected with their phones, especially with social media being a big thing like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and all that. I believe that’s also helped people reach out and be able to find those careers they want to take without going to school,” said Eric Gunter, ESU student.

The trend seems to be similar for the majority of state-owned universities, including Bloomsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Lock Haven, and Shippensburg. Many believe you don’t have to go to college to make a high salary, you can go into a trade.

“I don’t think college has the– you don’t get the same opportunities as far as when you get out. When I get out of my apprenticeship, I get a job,” said Lee Chapman who is a lineman.

State officials acknowledge that several factors, besides the pandemic, are causing the decline in enrollment.

In July, state officials announced Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lock Haven Universities will merge into one school while in western Pennsylvania California, Clarion, and Edinboro would form another school.

The changes are to be phased in starting in late 2022.

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