Avoid Joining the Ranks of Closed Colleges and Universities

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group

More colleges have announced that they will close permanently.  This continues the unfortunate trend of colleges and universities succumbing to the enrollment cliff, inflation and increased competition.  It seems like another school is added to the mix of failed entities every week.  The fallout from the FAFSA disaster this cycle is likely to trigger even more institutions ceasing operations.  The reasons are numerous:

  • Demographic declines in the national customer base mean fewer available students.
  • Many colleges and universities never recovered from the impact of the pandemic.
  • More families question the ROI of a college education.
  • Financial aid funding has not kept pace with rising costs.

The enrollment challenges are real and unlikely to improve.  Despite the obstacles, many colleges and universities have been able to maintain enrollments and even grow during these difficult times.  What can enrollment leaders do to increase the odds for enrollment stability and even growth?

  • Take a detailed look at your current strategies, tactics and practices. Has your enrollment plan evolved in response to financial and demographic challenges?
  • Are you taking immediate, pro-active measures in response to market obstacles?
  • Enrollment management is a data-driven enterprise. Are you effectively utilizing the data in your recruitment operation?   Do you know if your admission problem is in the size of the inquiry pool, the application count or in conversion or yield rates?
  • Are you taking advantage of the telephone, text messaging, social media and digital platforms in your communication process with applicants for admission and their families?
  • Does your financial aid process specificallysupport your goals regarding recruitment and retention?
  • Is your institutional aid program sufficiently funded to provide access and to recognize achievement?
  • Do you have adequate reporting mechanisms and accountability metrics when it comes to retention?
  • Consider bringing in an outside professional to help you review current practices and recent outcomes. The time is right to invest in your future for successful enrollment outcomes.

While the enrollment cliff is real, it is not determinate. You can ensure your college is among the winners if you take bold action and implement serious changes to produce better outcomes.

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