ROCKVILLE, Md. - Colleges across America are facing a daunting challenge.
Reports show there is a sharp and persistent decline in the number of people going to public and community colleges.
Montgomery College recently passed out a survey to find out why students weren't coming back to campus.
The president says there are two main reasons retention rates are declining: Many students are taking on full-time roles because they need money and scheduling issues such as students needing to take care of their loved ones at home.
FOX 5 spoke with multiple students at Montgomery College who were going to give up or decided to pause their studies for some time due to virtual learning.
"My experience was not that good, I would say, because taking online classes was a struggle for me," said Barke Ahmed, an MC student. "I’m more of an on-campus person because I like to socialize with people and get to see the professor rather than seeing it on the computer."
"I would’ve absolutely left, and I think a lot of the college experience is being with other students on campus and when that was taken away from students, they didn’t see the value of sitting on their laptop at home. I think that we’re still seeing the consequences of that," said Miguel Rodriguez Kino, another MC student.
Data reveals the coronavirus pandemic is partially to blame. One big difference compared to coming out of the recession is there are a lot of jobs available now, but not enough people to fill them, which creates more opportunities for those who rather go into the workforce instantly.
Statistics show employers are offering higher wages and benefits for entry-level jobs that don't require a college degree.
Schools throughout the D.C. region provided enrollment numbers to FOX 5 which shows a big and continuing decline in enrollment.
For example – from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021 – Montgomery College is down about 20%.
The school's president Dr. Jermaine F. Williams believes degrees are not losing their value and people who do have one — ultimately get paid more.
In an effort to recruit and retain more students, MC is offering a $500 scholarship for any Montgomery County high schooler who wants to come to enroll in the school.