Where have all the young, eager minds gone? Though high school graduation rates are healthy across the United States, the number of actual graduates is expected to remain stagnant or decline in the coming years. The competition for students is already fierce among higher education institutions, and this dwindling figure makes it all the more difficult for colleges and universities to fill their classrooms. With the decreased demand and increased service supply, the higher education industry is nearing a breaking point.
As an industry, higher education is staring adversity in the eye, and far-reaching, significant changes are much closer than they may appear.
Your school can stay in the game by retooling your undergraduate recruiting. Wipe away the image of the prototypical student and embrace a changing undergraduate demographic. Then consider these three tactics for targeting prospective students.
Many U.S. colleges and universities were founded while the country was evolving into a highly educated, first-world leader, and they have remained the model for newer institutions while our economy flourished at home. But business is now conducted on a global scale, and the primary and secondary education systems of other countries rival or outpace our own.
There is appreciable growth in degree-seeking high school students within those other countries, and this potential student pipeline and revenue stream shouldn’t be ignored. Try offering incentives and packages for international students, opening international locations, or partnering with schools worldwide.
Rethink your target age group
Twenty-seven is the new 18, and “non-traditional” is the new “traditional.” The number of older students in the United States is on the rise, and if your institutions can adapt to their unique needs, you will reap the benefits. Go after individuals working part-time and who are looking for online options. Accommodate successful adults who need a degree to get ahead in their career or qualify for a higher salary. Offer parents part-time and evening programs so they can manage children and college simultaneously. Institutions that offer the programs and flexibility that these students require will likely see jumps in enrollment.
Go to the city
More and more families and young adults are packing their bags and heading to the city. For many rural areas, the health of the higher education institution determines the health of the community. Perhaps your institution should consider opening satellite locations in nearby cities, shifting marketing resources, or offering incentive-focused options to students in neighboring cities and states. These are decisions that may be far more critical than you could imagine for every business and resident within the community.
As an industry, higher education is staring adversity in the eye, and far-reaching, significant changes are much closer than they may appear. Your institution can rise to the occasion, compete, and even flourish by finding new and effective ways to provide your students the high-quality service they’ve come to expect. Maintaining and growing enrollment and revenues are essential to that objective, so make the adjustments today that will keep you relevant tomorrow.
How we can help
CLA’s higher education professionals actively monitor the topics and trends that are affecting the industry. We can help predict and prepare your institution for what lies ahead with strategies for adapting and growing amid radically changing demographics.