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Higher ed enrollment concerns and strategies

College officials share their financial predictions for 2017
University Business, January 2017
  • UB survey on higher ed predictions; all numbers have been rounded.
  • UB survey on higher ed predictions; all numbers have been rounded.
  • Survey of college admissions, enrollment and financial aid leaders.
  • In last year’s survey, a nearly equal percentage of college administrators anticipated modest or significant student enrollment increases for 2016. Last year, less respondents, 14 percent, anticipated modest or significant decreases for 2016.
  • Many higher ed officials agree that admissions and marketing actions will focus more on data to track the student lifecycle in its entirety.

Enrollment declines will be the most pressing concern keeping presidents and other top officials up at night in 2017. Seven in 10 who responded to a UB survey named it as the area with the greatest potential for causing the institution financial or reputational harm. State budget cuts, at 44 percent, are the next biggest worry for the 66 responding presidents, provosts and chancellors. 

Sexual assault policies have been top-of-mind for campus officials for several years now. Three-quarters of campus leaders say they spent significant time last year on prevention and procedures in this area, and more than half expect to engage in new discussions this year. More than one in five are concerned about related reputational issues in the year to come.  

At least half of the 74 admissions,enrollment and financial aid administrators responding to a separate survey anticipate a modest or significant increase in traditional-age students and transfer students. Just under half expect an increase in students who are first-generation, or from other states or countries. 

The published tuition rate is expected to increase at nearly seven in 10 institutions. One in five report it will stay the same, and 1 percent say it will decrease. 

Popular admissions and marketing actions for 2017 include focusing more on data for student lifecycle tracking, creating new articulation agreements to make transfer easier, and crossing department lines to bolster student success and completion.

Beefing up financial literacy initiatives continues to be important to colleges and universities. Top efforts for 2017 include intensifying outreach to current and prospective students; focusing more on financial topics outside of student loan debt; and more actively counseling students about the financial implications of their course and major choices. Still, less than 10 percent of respondents report having a mandatory financial literacy program.

Survey of presidents, provosts and chancellors

Top campus officials on financial and reputational harm

  • 70% name enrollment declines as the biggest worry in 2017 and beyond, when asked to choose from a list of 20 potential issues that could harm the institution’s name or stability
  • 76% named enrollment declines as the biggest worry for 2016 and beyond in last year’s survey
  • 21% say reputation/brand issues are a top area of potential institutional harm in 2017

... but schools seem to be meeting the enrollment challenge for 2017

  • 68% expect nontraditional enrollment to increase modestly or significantly 
  • 82% anticipate traditional student enrollment will increase modestly or significantly

Sexual assault and reputational harm

  • 15% Officials who expect their schools to be in the public eye for complaints students or staff have made about the handling of sexual assault allegations (7% anticipated this for 2016 in last year’s survey)
  • 22% Campus officials who say reputational issues as related to sexual assault are of concern to the leadership team for 2017

On the agenda for 2017:

  • 55% will be engaged in new discussions about sexual assault policies and procedures in 2017 to ensure they are what they should be
  • 18% anticipate making changes to sexual assault policies and procedures

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