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Slow job market impacts higher education

In the United States, recent news surrounding the economy is optimistic as the country’s GDP grew at a rapid 3.9 percent during the third quarter of 2014. The nation has now recovered all of the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession, and the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5.8 percent, the lowest since July 2008. Some states who had been hovering at an unemployment rate of 8 percent have also seen a steady drop, but remain above the national average. Arizona is among these states, with the unemployment rate at 6.8 percent in recent months.

When there is an economic downturn, people have historically gone back to school as the value of a higher education increases, which for some outweighs the benefits of returning to the job market. Higher Ed Growth, a leader in post-secondary education marketing, has analyzed its data over the past year to pinpoint trends in higher education as a result of the recovering economy. Its findings show that the nation as a whole is currently experiencing reduced growth in college enrollments compared to previous years as students enter the job market again.

However, Arizona has seen an increase in students enrolling in higher education institutes from 2013 to 2014.

The Enrollment Pursuit Report released by Higher Ed Growth at the beginning of the year illustrated multiple changes in the higher education industry that reflect the current shift in the job market. Developments in both technology and health care are driving an increase in career opportunities to those fields. Degrees within the health care industry have grown more than 15 percent since 2011 as students pursue more in-demand fields. Business degree enrollments are down by about 10 percent, and because business degrees account for a majority of online programs, there has also been a decrease in online class enrollment in recent years.

In Arizona, certificate-level programs saw a decrease of about 18 percent, while associate and bachelor-level degrees increased. This differs from national statistics, which show a steady increase in certificate-level programs. This indicates that Arizonans are investing more time and resources into their education than those in other states.

As the Arizona economy continues to recover and reach a lower unemployment rate, the enrollment rate will likely drop as well. The most significant change in higher education will likely be a shift in degree types offered as new programs are both created and phased out. Students will continue to flock to degrees within health care and technology, and schools should focus their efforts on these along with other programs that are high demand and have high job placement rates.

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