While undergraduate enrollment is stabilizing, fewer students are studying health care


Undergraduate college enrollments fell 0.6% last fall from the year before. That’s after two years of larger declines, according to a report released today from the nonprofit National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Although enrollment appears to be stabilizing overall, the number of undergraduates choosing to study health care — a fast-growing field for employment — is down 4.6%. Health care employment is expected to grow 13% over the next decade, according to federal projections.

Despite that, the report finds that the number of students in health-related majors such as nursing has declined at every level of study — associate, bachelor’s and graduate programs.

Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, points out that many health care workers have left their jobs during the pandemic.

“Some of that kind of sentiment can spill over to prospective students as well,” Shapiro said.

That includes students like 19-year-old Layah Garton of Hendersonville, Tenn., who planned to become a cardiothoracic or vascular surgeon.

“And when COVID hit, the whole medical field took a complete turn,” Garton said. “And I was like, ‘you know what, let’s do something else that I enjoy and that’s why I’m here.’

Garton is now in the diesel mechanics program at a technical college in Nashville, learning how to work on cars — instead of people.

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