In a study on the changing face of higher education, the New York Federal Bank of Reserve has found what it calls a post-Great Recession enrollment bounce, even while the halls of academe became a refuge during that period of labor dislocation which is considered to have ended. Economists disagree on its duration, but the fall of 2008, highlighted by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank holding company, is widely believed to be the start. For many, the fallout continues.
The New York Fed concludes that this enrollment bounce is driven by non-traditional students at two and four-year colleges. The study also includes less-than-two year schools, which takes in anything from basket-weaving classes to coding boot camps. The students themselves run the gamut from single parents, female and minority students, retired grandparents and Pell Grant recipients, with Pell being a marker for students from low-income backgrounds. Part-time students from all walks of life exerted the biggest influence.
"It is important for us to understand not only the growth in the higher education market but also which types of students contributed to this growth," stated Dr. Rajashri Chakrabarti, a senior economist and author of the study along with Michael Lovenheim, a professor at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology. "Any changes in the composition of students may have implications for the composition of skilled workers in the labor market, for student loans and for loan repayment."
As with two-year and less than two-year schools, there's been a spike in minority students at four-year institutions every year since 2000, especially at for-profit colleges. "Since 2007, the percentage of minorities at these (for profit) schools has increased at a much faster rate than at other types of four-year institutions," the New York Fed said. "In each year since 2000, for-profit schools have had a larger percentage of minority students than any other type of four-year school." Whether or not for-profit colleges will continue to drive the higher ed land rush remains to be seen, especially in view of the sensational failures of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.
"Among students studying at public two-year and less-than-two-year institutions between 2000 and 2015, our analysis shows that more than 60% were part-time," the New York Fed said. "The comparable figure for students at for-profit schools is only 13%, less than one-quarter the public number. Taken as a whole, then, more than 57% of all students studying at two-year and less-than-two-year institutions were part-time. This share of part-time students decreased gradually, from 60% in 2000 to 54% in 2011, but post-recession years have seen an increase back to 58% in 2015.
People studying for a four-year BA were much less likely to be part-timers--just 21% of students between 2000 and 2015. However, there were large differences across the various categories of four-year institutions.
"Elite private schools and public flagship schools had a much lower percentage of part-time students than the other categories, with the share at elite private schools decreasing to just 5% in 2015," the New York Fed said. "Between 2000 and 2011, the percentage of part-time students at most categories of four-year schools stayed relatively constant, before witnessing a slight uptick in the post-recession years."
The New York Fed concluded that "This drastic change in the composition of the higher education market in the post-recession period, and especially in the for-profit sector, may very well have broader implications for the composition of the skilled labor force in the near future."
The New York Fed also said, "There may be implications for earnings and student-debt management, and by extension for growth in the national economy." The New York Fed did not predict whether these change will improve the ability of people to pay off their student loans or exacerbate a growing problem.