Big Drop In College Enrollment : What To Do About It

November 3rd, 2014

From College Board

If you have been skeptical about American demographic changes and the resulting decline in college enrollment, review the latest United States Census Bureau statistics. Released Sept. 24, 2014, the report shows a historic drop in college enrollments:

 

A one-year decline of more than 460,000 students

A two-year decline in enrollment of 930,000 students, called “larger than any college enrollment drop before the recent recession”

 

These decreases follow a period of significant growth between 2006 and 2011 when the number of enrolled students climbed by more than 3.2 million. Many have theorized that the slow economy drove students back to the classroom in an environment where jobs were scarce.

While the headlines are arresting, it’s worth spending time reviewing the details:

 

Two-year institutions are affected most: Enrollment dropped 10 percent at two-year colleges, while it rose modestly (1 percent) at four-year institutions.

Latino enrollment has stagnated: Enrollment by students from Latino backgrounds was flat last year, after an increase of 1 million students over the previous five years (2007 to 2012).

Declines cut across age levels: The change in enrollment for students 21 and younger fell at about the same rate as for students 25 and older.

 

These shifts should not come as a surprise. In their 2013 edition of Knocking at the College Door, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education reiterated their long-standing prediction that a decrease in high school graduates will result in stiffer competition for recent high school graduates.

How to Cope with Changing Demographics

While the trends are sobering, there are glimmers of positive news. The past year saw a continued increase in the percentage of students from recent graduating classes going on to college. This increase in college-going rates will not, on its own, offset declining enrollments, but it does point the way to strategies you can employ on your campus:

 

Learn from other institutions: The University of California system recently announced that it has admitted more Latino students (29 percent of the admitted class) than whites (27 percent) for the 2014 academic year.

Review your student search strategy: Leverage the solutions available in College Board Search to make sure your search orders are targeted and strategic. Enrollment Planning Service™ can help you better understand today’s shifting market.

Build strategies for increasing student diversity: Information from the Access and Diversity Collaborative can help you build access and next-generation diversity goals in ethical, legally sound ways.

Communicate your strengths: Place your net price calculator prominently on your website, and consider a variety of other tools to help prospective students understand everything your institution has to offer.

 

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