- Only 34% of institutions met new student enrollment goals this year, down from 37% the previous year and 42% the year before that — with the only group meeting its target being doctoral institutions at 59%, according to a new survey from Inside Higher Ed and Gallup. A majority of surveyed admissions directors cited dwindling enrollment as a top concern.
- 80% of private college respondents said they thought free tuition programs would threaten their institutions, while 89% of this group said concerns on student debt were causing them to lose potential applicants — with that number being 71% for directors at public colleges.
- Overwhelmingly, directors have said they are worried about the image of higher ed and how that's affecting applications; 95% percent either agreed or strongly agreed that institution leaders need to do a better job of explaining the value of a postsecondary degree, which is an increase from 87% the year before.
Increasingly, institution leaders have expressed concerns over their ability to maintain the financial stability of their respective businesses, especially as students begin to question the value of the traditional four-year degree and even college generally. This new data from admissions directors follows the heels of Inside Higher Ed's 2017 survey of 400 chief business officers at various types of colleges and universities, which found that 71% of chief business officers said they agreed that higher ed institutions were facing serious financial difficulties — an 8% jump from the year prior. Among the reasons cited for why this financial turmoil had evolved is declining enrollment rates due to a smaller applicant pool and growth of non-traditional students that may choose alternative, shorter online credential options.
As more institutions worry about dwindling resources and lack of students to fill revenue gaps, administrators can try to stay ahead by communicating with their state legislators on ways of getting more federal support, or perhaps to avoid the potential of a merger. More importantly, institutions will have to prove their worth and the value of their degrees as the market becomes more diverse and new disruptive players step in, a strategy that depends heavily on improving current student ROI — especially because in an age of social media, potential applicants tend to look for reasons to attend an institution based on what they read online and hear from current students. Moreover, admissions officers can work to try and encourage more international students apply, offering legal advice on ways of getting through the application process more quickly and effectively.