March 17, 2023
Best of the Week — First Winner
AP shows why young Americans are shunning college
News outlets had widely reported a drop in U.S. college enrollment, but nobody had really explained why. Education reporter Collin Binkley and Ohio-based video journalist Patrick Orsagos figured the best way to find out was to talk with young adults themselves.
Binkley won a grant from the Education Writers Association and traveled with Orsagos to western Tennessee, where the pair conducted cross-format interviews with high school graduates whose stories exposed the reasons behind the trend: The high cost of higher education. Fear of student debt. A hot job market. General disillusionment with education after high school experiences disrupted by the pandemic and school closures.
The story sparked wide discussion about the cost of college, the need for reform in higher education and the relevance of a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy. The day after publication the story landed on Reddit’s “popular” page, thanks to a post on the “Futurology” subreddit that received more than 25,000 upvotes and 3,000 comments. It appeared on at least 21 newspaper front pages, with good play on The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, The Columbus Dispatch, The Roanoke Times and the Ithaca Journal, among others.
The story was tweeted by several members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio. Parents, professors and other readers reached out via email and social media, saying the story resonated with them and demonstrated the need for America’s colleges to offer something young people see value in. And the former admissions director at Jackson State Community College offered to advise one of the students in the story on her college options; that student said she plans to contact him.
For going to the source to find the reasons behind a major trend, Binkley and Orsagos share this week’s Best of the Week — First Place honors.