FL's College Rankings Drop and Enrollment Dips As Attitudes Shift With the State's New Policies

L. Cane

There are plenty of pathways that a young person has for making a living. One popular option used to be attending college and getting a degree, but a recent survey indicates that this option has become less attractive to some.

Specifically, a Wall Street Journal survey from March of 2023 had 56% of respondents indicating that a four-year degree is a "bad bet." And 42% indicated that college "wasn't worth it."

Part of this sentiment may be due to the expensive cost of a college education. According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a college education tops $35,000 per year.

However, Florida residents can pay a bit less, due to the state's Bright Futures scholarship program and the fact that Florida discounts tuition for residents. According to Florida Shines, the average Floridian pays $6,071 per year in tuition.

Still, it appears that a loss in confidence toward a college education may be impacting Florida colleges, which I will discuss below.

Enrollment in Florida's College Institutions is Down and Florida's Policies May Be A Contributing Factor: According to WFLA reporting in February of 2023, enrollment in Florida's colleges dropped 4.5% since August of 2022. Data indicated that the biggest drop in enrollment was the state's educator development program, which prepares students to become teachers.

Another factor in declines in enrollment could be some of Florida's policies. Florida higher education has changed in the last couple of years, introducing legislation such as the "Stop Woke Act," tenure changes, and budget cuts to diversity initiatives.

According to Forbes reporting in April of 2023, a survey from Intelligent indicated that 91% of prospective college students disagree with Florida's educational policies.

Some experts also say that today's students look at life a bit differently. Jamia Stokes, a senior director at SCORE, told Fortune in March of 2023:

“They’re more pragmatic about the way they work, about the way they spend their time and their money.”

Florida Colleges Drop In Rankings For Public Universities: According to The Tampa Bay Times reporting in mid-September 2023, in a recent ranking by U.S. News + World Report, the University of Florida lost its number five ranking for national public universities and fell to number six.

USF fell three spots in the public university category, and FSU fell four spots. New College, which has been in the news due to a takeover by the state, fell a whopping 24 spots in the national liberal arts category.

However, UF, FSU, and USF did better in rankings overall when not in the public university category, and in some cases moved up spots.

Trade School Enrollment Is Up: According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data, enrollment in trade training such as construction is up. Culinary and mechanical programs are reportedly seeing similar increases according to Business Insider reporting in April of 2023.

Haney Technical College in Panama City is expanding its programming because of increases in enrollment. And the average age of students is getting younger - from 27 to 20.

Chaquan Middleton, who attends Haney Technical College for mechanics, told WJHG in March of 2023:

“I think this was the best option you can pretty much come here and then within a year, year and a half, you can be out in the field."

Opposing Opinion: Although some have doubts about the value of a college degree, a study from Georgetown University found that those with a bachelor's degree earned 75% more over their lifetimes than those without a degree.

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