Wake-Up Call

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John W. Dysart, President, The Dysart Group

For many colleges and universities, it has been another rough year as hundreds failed to meet their recruitment goals. The national trends are discouraging.

  • Demographics continue to be problematic and are more negatively pronounced in certain regions of the country.

The greatest declines in the number of students enrolled in college in 2019 were realized in Florida, California, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

  • College enrollments declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2019. The latest represents a drop of approximately 300,000 students in a single cycle.
  • It has been predicted that college enrollments will drop by 10-15% by the end of the decade.
  • Non-Hispanic White population growth is lagging behind growth among Asians, Blacks and Hispanics.

Most enrollment managers and higher education leaders are not surprised by the trends and recent outcomes. Demographic trends are not new, and many institutions have been struggling to meet their enrollment objectives for years. Meetings are being held, discussions are taking place and hands are wringing. Too often, the meeting, discussions and concern are not followed by action. For many colleges and universities, it is time to wake up and address the challenges head on.

Invest in Your Product

While resources can be scarce for many colleges, it is always a good idea to evaluate the physical plant and identify areas in need of improvement. You might be able to secure donors for specific physical plant enhancements.

Reach Out to Under-Represented Populations

Introduce a plan to recruit students from underrepresented populations to increase college attendance rates within the populations and to increase enrollments at your institution.

Expand Academic and Co-Curricular Offerings 

In the last six years, colleges and universities have added more than 40,000 new academic programs. While this can be effective, leaders must be careful in choosing new programs and ensure that there is a market for them. Often, academic majors and concentrations are added without sufficient research.

Offer new co-curricular options that enhance the college experience and are attractive to prospective students. Offerings such as internships, research opportunities within majors and study abroad are popular.

New Revenue Sources

Seek new sources of revenue if your net tuition from traditional students has stagnated or declined. Colleges have introduced a number of new sources in recent years:

– Degree Completion for Adults
– Online Programs
– Increased Summer School Courses
– Hosting Summer Events on Campus
– Dual Enrollment

Comprehensive Review of Your Current Admission and Financial Aid Operations

Reconsider all strategies and tactics within your enrollment management division and discontinue outdated measures. After the review, commit to actually doing things differently. This is your wake-up call.


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