CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A new study found West Virginia is one of five states that have seen the largest increase in college enrollment in the last two decades.
According to LendingTree.com, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education to determine the changes in postsecondary education enrollment between 2002 and 2021 across the country. The company says 2021 is the last year for which that data is currently available.
The study found that, in that time frame, the Mountain State saw an increase in college enrollment of 41.1%, the fifth-largest increase in the country. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Education’s data showed a total of 93,723 student enrollments. The data showed 132,280 West Virginia students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in 2021.
The states with higher increases than West Virginia are New Hampshire with a 189.6% increase, Utah with a 118.0% increase, Idaho with a 75.3% increase and Arizona with a 52.9% increase.
Researchers found Alaska is the state that saw the biggest drop in enrollment with a 29.2% decline. Michigan followed at a 20.5% decline with Illinois rounding out the bottom three with a 13% decline.
According to the study, despite West Virginia's number of enrolling students increasing, the cost of tuition, fees and room and board has also significantly increased in the last 20 years. LendingTree says the U.S. Department of Education's data shows the average cost in West Virginia for an undergraduate's tuition, fees and room and board at a four-year public institution was approximately $7,625. By 2021, that total had more than doubled, with the costs totaling $19,312, an increase of 153.3%.
The study found that only four states' cost of a public postsecondary education did not double over the past 20 years - Utah with a 98.2% increase, Maryland with a 96.6% increase, Wyoming with a 96.5% increase, and Florida with a 85.9% increase. Florida's increase was the lowest in the country, according to researchers.
Kentucky saw the largest increase for a public postsecondary education with an increase of 202.8%. Kentucky was followed by Massachusetts with a 202.2% increase, Arizona with a 200.2% increase, Louisiana with a 199.5% increase and Virginia with a 186.6% increase.
The cost for an undergraduate to attend a four-year private postsecondary institution in the Mountain State has also increased, but not quite as much as for a public institution. The average cost for tuition, fees and room and board at a private college in West Virginia was approximately $18,329, while in 2021, the average cost was $22,303, a 21.7% increase.