If Enrollment Falls Short, Cutting Or Adding Programs Is No Quick Fix

Career College Central summary:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent survey of small colleges and universities, which asked whether they met their enrollment and revenue goals in September, polled institutions on what their responses might be in case of an enrollment shortfall.
  • Making changes in enrollment-management practices and marketing strategies ended up being the most popular fixes. Since colleges are major employers in any given community, layoffs were among the least-popular solutions.
  • But when David W. Strauss, a principal with the Art & Science Group, which does market research and strategic consulting for colleges, looked at the data, he was struck: Many institutions — 63 percent of small private colleges and 54 percent of comprehensive colleges — said they would start new programs to attract students. Another significant chunk— 24 percent of private colleges and 39 percent of state colleges — said they would consider eliminating low-enrollment programs to deal with shortfalls in students and revenue.
  • If administrators see those options as quick fixes, Mr. Strauss is concerned. “Schools don’t typically start programs quickly or eliminate them at all—and if they do, it’s not quickly,” he said. Moreover, he said, starting new programs is not a solution all by itself. “That is not a way to reposition the institution,” he said. “It is a way to make it possible for the institution to explore an additional stream of students.”
  • In other words, a liberal-arts college might start a business program. That might put the college on the radar of students who wanted to major in business, but it doesn’t fundamentally change what that college is all about.

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THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

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