Interest in going to a four-year university has dropped again among high schoolers in the United States for the second year in a row. The main reason? Worries about the cost of a degree and taking on student debt.

The results were from a survey by high school students that was conducted by nonprofit ECMC Group, and it found that the likelihood of attending a four-year university fell by more than 20%, from 71% in 2020 to 48% in 2021.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a blow to universities by requiring students to learn remotely to stay safe, but depriving them of a fuller campus experience beyond studies. Now as universities are beginning to reopen their campuses to returning and new students, the problem now is that prospective freshmen do not see the benefits of attending as outweighing the financial risks.

Among the 1,000 students who answered the survey, 46% said that they considered the ideal plan following high school would only require three years of college study or less. However, an unspecified number of students said they would pursue a four-year degree because of family or social pressure to do so.

Cost is the main reason why high schoolers are hesitant about attending a four-year university. According to data from the College Board, tuition and fees plus room and board for in-state public colleges rose to $27,330; at four-year private colleges, it averaged $55,800.

The site also estimates that the average debt for a bachelor's degree program at a public or private university was $28,400. Perhaps reflecting the combination of the pandemic and ongoing concerns about student debt, it was found that the total number of federal loans to undergraduates dropped by 46% between 2010-11 and 2020-2021.

Student debt has been a contentious issue for years. The Biden administration and Democratic members of Congress have proposed new measures to help ease students’ debt burden, which today stands at $1.73 trillion, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.