Embracing Change: The Next Wave of Higher Education
Spending nearly a decade as an enrollment management professional until recently, I experienced the challenge that the impending traditional enrollment cliff presents for universities and colleges. I was often faced trying to find solutions to the same recurring questions:
- How do we engage with new markets while retaining the markets we have?
- Do we have the resources and technology available to reach new markets?
- How do we accomplish reaching new markets on a flat or declining budget?
- Are we doing everything we can to reduce barriers and increase inclusivity for all student types?
The decline of traditional student applications, increase of generational, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity, and efforts to reach new or untapped student markets are issues top of mind for all institutions regardless of size or type. Institutions are also exploring new strategies, techniques, and tools to reach these nontraditional learners – there's no denying that the higher education industry is undergoing massive change. According to Inside Higher Ed’s 2021 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers:
“More than 80 percent of officers say they are very likely to increase recruitment for minority and transfer students, while approximately three-quarters (78 percent) say the same for full-time undergraduates and first-generation college students.”
My recent move from enrollment management for a university, to working on the “vendor” side of higher education in a role that’s designed to connect institutions to technology solutions, allows me to serve as a resource and support for professionals who find themselves asking the same questions I did.
As I connect with more professionals across the industry, it appears that versions of the same questions are being asked. And the pressure of meeting weekly, monthly, and annual enrollment goals continues to build as competition increases and the volume of traditional applications decreases. I can recall asking myself, “Am I doing everything I can to support our students and our school’s mission?” The 2021 Inside Higher Ed survey also revealed similar sentiment from senior admissions officers:
“Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ about meeting their enrollment goals for the fall, and another 32 percent were ‘concerned’.”
It’s comforting (and concerning) to know that I wasn’t alone.
Doing things a certain way because that’s the way they have always been done is not good enough anymore. And more and more institutions are realizing that the philosophy is not sustainable to remain competitive. Additionally, ensuring that you, your team, and your institution have the right toolset to reach your goals will be critical as industry headwinds grow stronger. By embracing this change as an opportunity, I believe institutions can thrive.
The time to accept this change is now. And I look forward to partnering with universities that are ready to embrace the change to improve the industry, support students, and attain goals.