- According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse, 224,000 fewer people enrolled into undergrad programs in the fall of 2017, impacting institutions in 39 states.
- Enrollment for new students, entering college for the first time, is declining faster than last year.
- There was an increase in the number of students enrolled in graduate and professional programs, but those gains were overshadowed by undergraduate student loss. Associate degrees, certificates and non-degree programs saw the greatest declines, according to the report.
Undoubtedly, the slowdown in college enrollment combined with the erosion of government support has darkened the financial picture for many higher ed institutions. State dollars for public colleges hover near “historic lows,” and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that state lawmakers contributed $9 billion fewer dollars to two and four-year public colleges compared to nearly a decade ago. As a result, “state policymakers have made going to college less affordable and less accessible to the students most in need.”
And while real estate has traditionally been a good bet for institutions looking to invest smartly to turn revenue, the elimination of private activitity bonds programs in the recently-passed GOP tax bill will make real estate development a little more difficult and increase the imperative to find new streams of revenue to be less tuition-dependent.
Still, colleges and universities must evolve in the current survival of the fittest environment. There are many routes, but having an entrepreneurial spirit is key. Increasingly, colleges have merged with nearby schools to cut administrative costs. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh partnered with local business owners to purchase the City Center Hotel. Institutions like the University of New Mexico and Purdue University are joining forces with outside organizations to generate alternative revenue. Lackawanna Community College is among those experimenting with income-share agreements that allow students to pay tuition after graduation with a small percentage of their annual incomes to encourage more students to enroll.
However colleges escape tuition dependency, one thing is key: they can no longer afford to keep to the status quo.