The research question is “How does falling unemployment affect college enrollment?” To answer this question, it is necessary to analyze the general background of the problem, which will help to understand the larger issue. It is common to associate the relationship between unemployment and college enrollment with the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the Great Recession on the border of the 2000s-2010s. Brown and Hoxby (2015, 1) note that the times of crises serve as an opportunity for new research endeavors. Although an economic crisis does not seem suitable for education research, it performed that function in the stated period (Brown and Hoxby 2015, 1). Scholars remark that the situation was especially surprising for higher education institutions because they had used to relish a long period of “economic prosperity and steady endowment growth” (Brown and Hoxby 2015, 1). Thus, the research question aims to cover two aspects of college enrollment: the economic situation in colleges and universities and the general state of higher education. Apart from that, the research will investigate the role of falling unemployment rates in enrollment reduction.
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Unemployment rates are believed to be the main determinant of college enrollment. According to Johnson (2015), the size of the enrollment market is contingent on the number of alternatives existing for prospective students. Selective colleges can regulate their classes’ size by adjusting admission criteria, and they focus their enrollment efforts not on whether to enter a college but on the location (Johnson 2015). Meanwhile, community colleges readily accept anyone who has graduated from high school. The problem is that low-income students have to choose between education and work. This phenomenon is known as the opportunity cost: the money one might have earned by finding a job instead of studying (Johnson 2015). When unemployment is high, the opportunity cost is zero for many young people. As a result, their joining a college does not bring many difficulties. Thus, it is possible to state that falling unemployment is positively associated with decreased enrollment.
Research is motivated by the intention to analyze the link between unemployment and college enrollment since such an analysis will promote an understanding of economic processes prevailing in the country. As a result, it will become possible to predict college enrollment, which will encourage both educational institutions and potential students to collaborate. Thus, answering the defined research question will help comprehend larger economic issues through research and analysis of relevant literature.
The hypothesis of the research project is “Falling unemployment decreases college enrollment.” The rationale for this hypothesis is based on relevant sources authored by prominent scholars, statisticians, analytics, and researchers. In particular, articles by Brown and Hoxby (2015) and Long (2015) discuss the effect of low employment on families’ financial state and their possibility to send their children to college. Other scholars analyze the question from the opposite perspective. For instance, Hall (2016) scrutinizes the effect of obtaining education on the risk of future unemployment.
To answer the research question, such data as statistics will be employed. Economic concepts, such as incentives, supply and demand, and costs and benefits will be included in the analysis. The mixed methods research will be used to collect data. Qualitative evidence can be obtained from a survey, whereas quantitative data can be drawn from statistics and reports available on the investigated issue.
Brown, Jeffrey R., and Caroline M. Hoxby. 2015. “Introduction.” In How the Financial Crisis and Great Recession Affected Higher Education, edited by Jeffrey R. Brown and Caroline M. Hoxby, 1-13. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Hall, Caroline. 2016. “Does More General Education Reduce the Risk of Future Unemployment? Evidence from an Expansion of Vocational Upper Secondary Education.” Economics of Education Review 52: 251-271.
Johnson, Nate. 2015. “The Unemployment-Enrollment Link.” Inside Higher Ed, Web.
Long, Bridget Terry. 2015. “The Financial Crisis and College Enrollment: How Have Students and Their Families Responded?” In How the Financial Crisis and Great Recession Affected Higher Education, edited by Jeffrey R. Brown and Caroline M. Hoxby, 209-233. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.