Elissa Nadworny

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More than 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. According to new data released Thursday, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, continuing a historic decline that began the previous fall.

"It's very frightening," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse, where the new data comes from. "Far from filling the hole of [2020's] enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper."

On Wednesday, President Biden announced that pandemic relief for about 41 million federal student loan borrowers will be extended once again until May 1.

Loan payments, interest accruals and collections of defaulted federal student loans have all been on hold since the start of the pandemic — first thanks to the CARES Act, then due to extensions from former President Donald Trump, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Biden.

This week, Wesleyan University in Connecticut held its first booster vaccine clinic on campus. CJ Joseph, a first-year student still figuring out what to major in, wasted no time signing up.

Ohio State University has launched an ambitious, 10-year plan to raise $800 million to eliminate all loans from financial aid packages given to undergraduates.

"It's not free college, it's not free tuition," says Kristina Johnson, the president of Ohio State, "but can we take one of the largest universities in the country and develop pathways for our students so that they can graduate debt-free?"

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Updated November 15, 2021 at 5:22 PM ET

Internet access has always been a problem for Faylene Begay, a single mother of four living in Tuba City, Ariz.

Before the pandemic, she didn't have an internet connection at her home on the Navajo Nation Reservation — all she had was an old phone with limited data. Back then, her lack of connection was a nuisance as she worked her way through classes at Diné College.

Enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities is on track to fall by another nearly 500,000 undergraduate students this fall, continuing the historic drops that began with the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data out Tuesday.

The decline of 3.2% in undergraduate enrollment this fall follows a similar drop of 3.4% the previous year, the first fall of the pandemic, according to the research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The Biden administration's program to make community college tuition-free will not become a reality in this round of the president's spending priorities, leaving progressive groups disappointed.

It's common knowledge at this point that the more education you have, the more money you'll make. Studies have shown that, on average, someone with a bachelor's degree will earn more than someone with an associate degree or a yearlong certificate.

But according to new research released on Thursday, there are also a lot of exceptions.

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