How The Last Recession Affected Higher Education Will History Repeat How the last recession affected higher education. Will history repeat one of the peculiar things about higher education is that it runs in the opposite direction of the economy. When the economy stalls, demand for college typically rises as the unemployed decide to go back to school to improve their job prospects. Since it seems near-certain that the coronavirus pandemic is triggering a new recession right now, I thought it would be useful to recap what happened to colleges and universities during the Great Recession of 2008 to help us think through what might and might not repeat this time around.
The number of students who enrolled in college jumped by almost 2.5 million, or nearly 16 percent, from 15.6 million undergraduate students in the fall of 2007 to a peak of 18.1 million students in the fall of 2010. Most of the increase was driven by older adults, according to Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, rather than typical college-age students who had recently graduated from high school. These older adults tended to enroll in two-year community colleges and for-profit online schools, such as the University of Phoenix.
The back-to-school rush didn’t happen right away. There was a long 18-month lag. First, workers were laid off. Then, they exhausted their unemployment benefits. “When the reality sets in that they’re not going to find another job, then they start thinking about school,” Shapiro said. “And by the time they get through the whole process of finding a school and getting into a school, a year and a half to two years have gone by.”
The federal policy encouraged Americans to go to school during the last recession. The 2009 Recovery Act increased the amount of Pell Grants to low-income students to more than $5,000 per year and expanded the number of students who were eligible for it. How the last recession affected higher education. Will history repeat
How The Last Recession Affected Higher Education Will History Repeat