When looking at long-term trends for higher education, it is useful to step back and look at the big picture. With this goal in mind, consider the comparison of post-secondary enrollment in degree-granting programs to the total number of jobs (both based on the US). The enrollment data is based on the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) and the employment data is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Current Population Survey (CPS). To get the big picture I decided to keep this simple – combining full-time and part-time enrollment, and combining full-time and part-time employment. To see the trends, I normalized both data series to 1980.

When you look at the data from 1970 – 2012, the results could explain some significant pressures experienced by higher education institutions. In a nutshell – this time is different, we are in uncharted territory.

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