It’s not that the title is misleading, per se, it’s that it isn’t telling the complete story. If you go to the trendline graphic contained within the article, you’ll see a fairly jagged line with an upward trend.
That being said, this recent dip is worth talking about because we should examine the potential causes and how they relate to education and education costs in the future. Part of this is a business cycle correction, as college enrollments increase in a recession. Another part is potential demand drop due to increasing tuition prices. If we are reaching a point where demand for higher education begins to show elasticity, this could be very good for education costs in the future.
Ultimately, we don’t know more about who is now choosing not to go to college, which is why this article doesn’t speculate further on the root causes. Another interesting thing that could be looked at is relative enrollments…though there is so much class discrimination in higher education that this may be hard to tease out, I’d always wonder if decreasing private school enrollments (especially mid and lower tier schools that aren’t as insulated from price pressure as, say, Princeton) and constant or above trend public school enrollment would indicate some price pressure effects. In reality, though, there’s too many variables to say for certain.
Good on FiveThirtyEight for at least looking at this, but beginning to actually think about the question just makes me crave more data.