College undergraduate enrollment rates have dropped by over 1 million since the pandemic started, marking a steep decline in a trend that started in the last decade–with over 3 million less college enrollments through the last 10 years. The pandemic has significantly impacted enrollments, with many students choosing to go straight into the workforce, and only 2% enrolling a year after deferring college.
While most colleges and universities have seen a steep drop in the last two years, community colleges and other colleges that serve higher rates of low to middle economic group students have experienced the highest drops in enrollment. Graduation rates are also low, with only 41% of college students graduating, and only 40% of those graduates completing their degree in four years or less.
Although a college degree is shown to improve economic standing, rising hourly wages for lower skill jobs are contributing to students moving straight into the workforce following high school graduation, especially with the impact the pandemic has had on the economy. Graduate degree programs have also seen a decline in enrollments. Money is one of the biggest factors contributing to lack of enrollments, along with a general trend of people taking stock of what they want to really invest their time in.
For Jewish students living in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland counties (for at least two years) looking to enroll in or continue at undergraduate, graduate, or technical school in the fall semester, Jewish Scholarship Services (JSS) offers some financial relief to the burden of tuition costs.
“A college education is more important than ever for helping young people pursue a meaningful career and have a financially stable future,” Dr. Jordan Golin, JFCS President and CEO says. “However, many students in the Jewish community are struggling to pay for college during these uncertain economic times. JSS is here to help you achieve your college goals and move forward with your future.”
Graduating high school seniors and current undergraduate, graduate, and technical school students may be eligible to receive financial support through JSS if they can demonstrate financial need. Some other factors may be considered, like academic achievement, school attending, and field of study.
Students can also reach out to JFunds for assistance with paying bills, covering book costs, or taking out interest-free loans to help with costs related to college. “JFunds is a network of Jewish financial support services, and our goal is to ensure that every Jewish person knows about the financial resources available to them in the Jewish community,” said Matthew Bolton, Director of JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry. “We have free financial coaching and support people planning for college… Squirrel Hill Food Pantry case workers have seen a major rise in both financial stress and confusion as to what resources are available. Jewish agencies such as the pantry, Jewish Assistance Fund, and Hebrew Free Loan have pivoted their programs to reflect new needs within our community. It’s important to know what you’re eligible for so that you can utilize all the resources you need.”
JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry also helps college students with food insecurity and has been advocating to local and state representatives to pass a bill for hunger-free campuses. They met with Senator Lindsey Williams’ staff in August 2021 to talk about the often overlooked problem of food insecurity among college students, which Williams decided to co-sponsor. They also help educate students about their eligibility for SNAP and other important benefits they might need.
Jewish young adults in eligible counties looking for assistance with college, graduate school, or technical school tuition can get help through JSS and JFunds to achieve their career goals and pursue their life dreams. Golin says, “Our community is here to support you—apply now!”