ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — With the pandemic changing the way many students think about education, there’s been a change of direction over the years as to what students want to get out of their post-secondary schooling.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has declined over the past decades, with men leading the drop in numbers. Those at local schools are saying trade schools are growing in popularity.

Since the pandemic, fewer high school students are choosing to attend college than previous decades. There’s also been a change with the gender ratio in many local colleges, showing more females than males attending.

Both are trends seen nationally, but in our own community there’s an increased opportunity for employment right now which could be one reason for fewer students going to college, especially men.

The American Trade School reports 98% of their students are male. Andrea Goodfellow is a school counselor for Wheatland-Chili High School, and she says there’s a dramatic shift towards trade schools. She says about 50% of their junior class is going to career technical school and a majority will go right into employment.

“We have a unique situation where we offer students to go to trade school while they’re in high school,” Goodfellow said. “And so, that piece kind of complicates our numbers because our students are actually being trained by experts in their field and so they could go right into employment after they graduate.”

Goodfellow says the pandemic is also a big contributor. She says remote learning wasn’t something students were interested in coming back to, so they’ve wanted to shift part of their day to be more skills-based where they can get a more hands-on experience.

Local schools are seeing fewer men going to college as well. In May of 2022, Monroe Community College had a class ratio of 58% female to 42% male.

The Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, Christine Casalinuovo-Adams says it’s happening nationally too.

“I think historically, nationwide we are seeing a trend. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that’s happening,” Casalinuovo-Adams said. “I think particularly here in our community, what we’re seeing is lots of opportunities for employment.”

Specifically in the trade’s fields, Goodfellow says many are retiring and there’s room for new employees. And Casalinuovo-Adams adds with staffing shortages in many fields, there are plenty of jobs hiring students right out of high school with skills developed in the trades.

That’s why Monroe Community College also offers various options for their student body, including non-credit training, accelerated training, and prep for going into the workforce.

Goodfellow adds there are still plenty of students choosing to attend college, she’s just noticing more of a shift in terms of students being open-minded to various options as they graduate.