We’re facing an "enrollment cliff." Is your institution prepared?

We’re facing an "enrollment cliff." Is your institution prepared?

Enrollment in higher education is changing, and many colleges and universities are seeing a decline in student enrollment and facing a lack of funding. Institutions were hit hard at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with student enrollment declining at a record pace. The severity of the pandemic has eased, and the decline in college enrollment is ongoing. This is known as the enrollment cliff and it’s happening now! 

What is Enrollment Cliff?

The enrollment cliff or demographic cliff is the dramatic drop in the traditional, college-aged population. This cliff is likely to continue for decades and is a result of a dramatic decline in the U.S. birthrate that began in 2007. The declining U.S. birth rate is not the least of which is how the country’s colleges and universities are impacted by a rapid drop in college-aged individuals in the general population. Other threats such as the learning experience being switched to online, making traditional degree programs less desirable to pursue, the increase in competition and new entrants in the education space, and the widespread decline in high school graduates unavoidably steepened the drop in total enrollment

Where will we see the biggest decline in total enrollment in the coming years? 

Regional four-year colleges and universities are expected to be impacted the most. The location of institutions will have an impact on the declining student enrollment population. Locations around the nation where many colleges and universities are, such as the Northeast, will be hit the hardest, with more students and colleges in these areas. Another reason that is contributing to the enrollment cliff is that students are abandoning the idea of higher education because of cost. The likelihood of many students attending a four-year school will decline solely due to financial reasons. Students are also not receiving information about college that they feel is relevant to them, with college outreach not being personalized and meeting the needs of prospective students. We are seeing a decline in both undergraduate enrollment and graduate enrollment. As most higher education institutions rely on tuition money as their largest revenue source, this will impact the institutions’ abilities to maintain their workforces. 

How can colleges and universities navigate through this cliff? 

The enrollment cliff is looming, but it can be avoided. Aside from strengthening a college’s brand, academic offerings, and campus life, and delivering personalized, and widely resonant value propositions to prospective students, it is important to focus their approach on enrollment by optimizing their search strategies, utilizing marketing automation, and guiding their efforts through predictive analytics. Focusing on the colleges’ budget by targeting those prospective students who are most likely to enroll is vital. Leaders at institutions should start having conversations now to understand the details and issues around this issue. Whether your institution expects the impact of the enrollment decline to be minimal or substantial, now is the time to spread awareness and position yourself as an invaluable institution to others. Don’t wait, now is the time to act!

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    Hello, I’m Gabriella Kuszel and I am the Marketing Strategist and Copy Writer at OneOrigin. Born and raised in Westchester, New York, and working from Connecticut, I am responsible for planning, developing, implementing, and managing the overall content marketing strategy. I’m an AI and ML enthusiast, and I’m here to share exciting updates on AI and ML trends in the higher education industry. Follow my blog to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence!