UET Online Magazine

Welcome UET Members

As part of our ongoing efforts to share information, the UET Online Magazine features important announcements on events and learning opportunities for bargaining unit employees. Listed below are links to specific timely information for UET Members. Create or update your User Profile by clicking MyUET to receive program updates and the UET Online Magazine by e-mail.

Issue 24: 12/27/2023

Trends in Higher Education Mean Opportunities for UET Participants

Trends in Higher Education Mean Opportunities for UET Participants

What recent high school graduates – as well as working adults – are doing for continuing education has changed dramatically in the past three years, but it follows a trend from the past two decades.

Enrollment at both two-year and four-year colleges has declined dramatically during and after the pandemic. Some of this can be attributed to declining birth rates 18 years ago in the recession, but most seems to be due to students checking out of remote learning in high school, being attracted to high-paying entry-level jobs, not wanting to take on student debt, and having precarious household financial status as a result of the pandemic. Trade school enrollment has increased, although not as much as needed to fill open positions.

Union Education Trust Trustee Nachael Church understands the challenge that workers face choosing between continuing their education and getting a job: “A lot of people are burnt out and tired of traditional schooling. With everything being virtual, they want to have the hands-on, one-on-one training,” she said. “A lot of trade schools offer students on-the-job training with compensation. With traditional colleges, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a job after you receive your degree.”

While the increased enrollment in trade schools is encouraging, the overall decrease in people continuing their education is worrisome because of the need for training and education for career development, especially in public sector jobs. This is where the Union Education Trust comes in: UET is not just for going back to college – although that is a great use of the program – but also pays for trade school programs, adult career center education, private career college courses, and short-term training.

“It’s so important for our members to continue educating themselves,” said Church, a Maintenance Repair Worker 2 at Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital (NOPH). “Everything we do is digital today. If we don’t study and learn the latest technology, we will fall behind. We won’t be as marketable, and we’ll be stuck behind the times.”

The statistics are concerning: “…undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8 percent from 2019 to 2022,” according to the March 10, 2023 PBS article “Why more Americans are skipping college.” In about two years, from 2020-2022, more than one million fewer students were in college according to an NPR article in January 2022.

Such a drop in college enrollment impacts the economy as community colleges (which felt the greatest hit) and four-year universities and colleges adjust to fewer customers. It has long-term ramifications: statistically, the higher your education level, the greater your lifetime earnings and lower your risk of unemployment, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The statistics are worse for minorities, according to a May 15, 2023 USA Today article: “Black college and university enrollment has been dropping steadily. Already down by 22% between 2010 and 2020, or more than 650,000 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it has fallen by another 7% since then, more recent figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show.”

While college enrollment numbers are declining, more recent high-school graduates are going into the trades than in the past, according to Repairer Driven News. The numbers aren’t high enough to close the gap of the demand for trained workers, but it’s a move in the right direction. The article quotes statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center such as the enrollment in two-year college skilled trades programs rose in the spring of 2022: “Within the mechanic and repair space, it increased by 11.5% year-over-year, representing 9,950 new students.”

The declining numbers at both four- and two-year colleges aren’t entirely a result of the pandemic, however. Numbers had been declining after 2010 and accelerated with the pandemic. An article in Business Insider attributed that to surging tuition costs competing with increases in minimum wage making entry-level employment more appealing. Another factor is the smaller number of students in the United States: There has been a shrinking birth rate since recent recessions. All this has to be balanced with the fact that there are still more people going to college than 50 years ago. According to Bestcolleges.com, twice as many people go to college today than in 1970.

At NOPH, Church sees many fellow OCSEA members continuing their education so that they can advance in their field: “In the healthcare field, a lot of members in the nursing department are trying to get their LPN or RN license so they can stay in their career and increase their pay,” she said.

The same is true in other agencies, Church said. “A lot of state workers really want to stay within the state’s system and receive the higher paying jobs.”

“Keep going to school and learning more,” Church advised. “It makes our members knowledgeable and marketable, and it makes their lives easier!”

Clearly the pandemic had a huge impact on college enrollment. It caused many potential college students to reconsider their future plans as classroom instruction changed from in-person to remote. Jean Eddy, president of American Student Assistance, is quoted in a Hechinger Report article explaining that young people need to find relevance, to see the value of what they are learning.

Another ramification of the pandemic was that some students needed to get employment to support their families. Still others have continued their training while at their job through apprenticeships and certificate programs. “Many young people who are choosing trade school over a traditional four-year degree say that they are doing so because it’s much more affordable and they see a more obvious path to a job,” Olivia Sanchez wrote in the April 17, 2023 issue of The Hechinger Report.

Specialized trade programs and short-term training programs have the added benefit of providing the employer with better job performance. It also increases the likelihood that the employer will utilize specialized classifications that pay a higher wage instead of using generalized positions that require cross-training and lower staffing.

Church pointed out that trade schools require less of a time commitment but have the same benefit of training students for employment security.

“Community colleges and trade schools offer certifications that are quicker to obtain. They’re usually six to 18 months, which is more appealing to those who don’t want the debt, but are looking to increase their knowledge and credentials,” Church said.

A lot of these trainings can be obtained by using the UET funds, Church said. “People see that they can gain knowledge and make more money, if they receive more education,” she said.



Want to read more? Here are the sources for this article:

Repairer Driven News’s More young adults are pursuing trades instead of college, statistics indicate: https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2023/04/19/more-young-adults-are-pursuing-trades-instead-of-college-statistics-indicate/#:~:text=High%20school%20graduates%20are%20increasingly,to%20the%20World%20Economic%20Forum.

Business Insider’s 3 reasons why Americans aren’t going to college anymore: https://www.businessinsider.com/college-enrollment-declining-student-debt-job-market-politics-2023-3

Best College’s U.S. college enrollment decline: Facts and figures: https://www.bestcolleges.com/research/college-enrollment-decline/

PBS’s Why more Americans are skipping college: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/why-more-americans-are-skipping-college

CNBC’s College is still worth it, research finds – although students are growing skeptical: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/01/is-college-worth-it-what-the-research-shows.html

The Hechinger Report’s Trade programs – unlike other areas of higher education – are in hot demand: https://hechingerreport.org/trade-programs-unlike-other-areas-of-higher-education-are-in-hot-demand/

NPR’s More than 1 million fewer students are in college. Here’s how that impacts the economy: https://www.npr.org/2022/01/13/1072529477/more-than-1-million-fewer-students-are-in-college-the-lowest-enrollment-numbers-

USA Today’s The college-going gap between Black and white Americans was always bad. It’s getting worse: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2023/05/15/college-student-gap-between-black-white-americans-worse/70195689007/