By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Though the pandemic is getting the blame for some of the decline in college enrollment, it’s a trend that has been happening for a long time.

In the past decade, enrollment at American universities and colleges is down 2.6 million students, or 13%. Over the next 10 years, it’s expected to fall another 11% to 15%.

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“I think if you ask any student money is going to be one of the top three issues,” said Hamline student Kate Meyer.

But in the midst of plunging enrollment, there is some good news for families and students. Colleges are offering more financial aid as an incentive to enroll.

At Minneapolis Community and Technical College, enrollment is down 20% from 2019 and college administrators are working outside the box to help students stay enrolled.

“If a student or parent is laid off we can look at this current year’s income instead of previous,” said Heidi Aldes, Director of Enrollment.

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The University of St. Thomas is using funding from alumni and donors to direct more financial aid to first generation college students and students of color.

The University of Minnesota and Hamline University have not seen enrollment drops but they say they are having to work harder to attract students.

Hamline has also revamped its admissions process to provide a more individualized focus to potential students. Merit scholarship funds have also increased.

The trend of dropping enrollment is expected to only continue for another reason – over the past decade American women have given birth to 5.8 million fewer babies.

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Another incentive to attract students has lost some of its luster. A proposal to double the amount someone can receive from Pell grants to $13,000 has been dropped from President Joe Biden’s massive social spending bill. The proposed increase in that bill is now $500.

Esme Murphy