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Will the fraction of American 18-24 year-olds enrolled in colleges in 2025 be ≥10% less than were enrolled in 2015?

In the US, enrollment in 4-year colleges has been steadily increasing since the 1970s, from around 17.1% to 29.9% in 2015.

Despite this, the economist Bryan Caplan has recently argued that this time spent in college by an increasing proportion of youth is wasteful, as the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity — in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee.

As increasing numbers of students get more degrees, the harder it becomes to remain competitive in the job market without spending lots of time in education — essentially creating a prisoner's dilemma in which it is individually rational, but socially harmful to waste evermore time getting degrees. This has made some confident that educational enrolment will only increase over time, including the aforementioned economist who has been placing bets on this.

Will the fraction of American 18-24 year-olds enrolled in traditional four-year colleges in 2025 be more than 10% lower than in 2015?

Since the 2015 rate is 29.9%, positive resolution is conditional on a rate 26.91% or less in 2025 as reported by data from the National Center for Education Statistics.


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