Drop In College Attendance Linked To High Unemployment

Jun 19, 2017

College attendance dropped as unemployment increased.
Credit Aaron Hawkins / Flickr

New research from Duke University shows that in states that have a widespread job loss, college attendance drops significantly among its poorest students.

The research was published in this month's Science magazine. Its authors are Anna Gassman-Pines and Elizabeth Ananat, both associate professors in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Pines said high unemployment rates affect students' reasoning on whether to continue going to college.

"Observing people in their community, neighbors friends, extended family members maybe, who are looking for work and can't find work that seems to be a really important factor that increases these feelings of uncertainty and distress," she said.

Pines and Ananat also compared job loss rates during middle and high school years with college attendance rates a few years later, at 19 years of age.

In states that suffered a seven percent job loss, college attendance by the poorest youth dropped by 20 percent, even when financial aid increased. 

Educational aftershocks of job loss
Credit Duke University

Pines said it's easy for some critics to tell students to just find another job. However, she said the difference is the students who stop attending are usually the poorest.

"These job losses are not just changing people's calculations about job search or college, but actually really making them distressed."