Enrollment is down by 30 percent this year, and it has not taken long for faculty to identify the reason: a media-supported nostalgia for childhood.
“We haven’t seen numbers this low in over 20 years,” one admissions rep said. “It just wasn’t making sense. But then we started looking at what was going on in pop culture and I think we found our answer there.”
Many adults have been quick to blame the app Pokémon GO for making young adults more interested in gaming than in studies because of the app’s intense media coverage. But the app was released in the United States in mid-July, and student interest in responsibility and growing up had begun decreasing long before then.
“We were starting to see general decreases in student motivation as early as the end of the last school year,” one professor said. “It wasn’t just the typical ‘end of the year blahs,’ either. I believe the problem lies in something I’m calling the ‘childhood reboot.’ Movie remakes of childhood favorites are having just as much of an impact as apps like Pokémon GO.”
The sequel “Finding Dory,” for instance, found as much support from children as from the teens and young adults who grew up on “Finding Nemo,” the original film released in 2003. Disney’s live-action remake of their 1967 movie “The Jungle Book” had a similar reception, with 48 percent of the viewing audience being adults flooding the theaters to relive a part of their childhood, this time with better animation.
“Young adults are being encouraged by the media to hold onto their childhood and avoid growing up and taking on adult responsibilities, like getting jobs and planning for the future,” said another professor who looked into the issue. “That’s why fewer students are signing up for college.”
The nostalgia can take longer to catch up to some young adults than for others, but the effects are almost immediate. For example, one student was found by his Resident Assistant (RA) sitting alone in his room on move-in day because his roommate failed to show up.
“He seemed excited to come,” he said. “But a couple of weeks ago he started posting stuff about Pokémon GO, and I haven’t heard from him since. I think he dropped out or something.”
Another student was overwhelmed when her roommate carted in her complete collection of Disney movies.
“She had, like, 70 DVDs and 40 VHS tapes,” she said. “Who even has VHS tapes anymore?”
In all, a total of 12 freshmen students failed to show up to campus for move-in day. Many more left their parents to unpack their things so they could go outside and see what Pokémon were hiding among the squirrels on campus.
Most professors believe there is no way to undo the effect of the nostalgia wave, and the only thing to do is wait for it to pass.
“Hopefully, people will get tired of playing the Pokémon game and we can get our numbers back up,” said one professor. “But until then, I have to defend my gym. Go Team Mystic!”