WESTERVILLE, Ohio — As many people have worked to regain their financial footing throughout the pandemic, many college students in families negatively impacted financially have taken jobs to make up for the deficits.

What You Need To Know

  • Students taking on jobs to help support their families is one reason colleges have seen a decline in college enrollment

  • According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there was a 5.1% decline in male college enrollment of males in 2020 compared to 2019

  • At Otterbein University, the school has seen an increase in males enrolling at the school instead of a decrease

  • School officials said the loss of income impacted low-income families and men felt a responsibility to deal with that

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there was a 5.1% decline in college enrollment in males in 2020 compared to 2019. Community colleges saw some of the steepest declines in enrollment at 15%.

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Otterbein University, said the pandemic accelerated what they were already seeing in higher education.

Still, the numbers raise cause for concern when it comes to the future of males in higher education.

“The opportunity for employment is very high,” said Blackburn-Smith. “You might be able to get a position in a factory for $18 or $22 an hour and to them, that feels like I am on top of the world. This is incredible. Look at what I can do for myself, and they don't understand where they're going to need to be, when they want to start a family, when they have children of their own, that they may want to secure higher education for. So, we really need to help them understand the long term impact of choices that they make.”

Blackburn-Smith said, at Otterbein, students may go first to Columbus State, while enrolled at Otterbein to cut down on cost while working. Once they've finished their two years at Columbus State, they may move on and complete their degree at Otterbein.

Even so, Blackburn-Smith said “I worry most not about the students that are currently in college, but the students whose high school education was impacted so severely by COVID,” Blackburn-Smith said. “We have seen significant numbers of students and districts where online learning just was not an environment in which they could be successful.

“So, we see students that were ‘B’ students their first two years of high school and then in their junior year, when everybody was online because of COVID, their grades dropped.”

While their grades are rebounding, Blackburn-Smith said they worry about educational opportunity of those students.

“If there is what seems like an immediate job and meaningful income available today, that they might decide that is a pathway they'd like to follow, rather than getting back on track for college,” he said.