Colleges face changes in the educational landscape daily. However, the current storm of revenue losses, student stressors and negative public perception has thrust many into uncharted territories. What are the issues facing today’s administration and what can be done to help?
Campuses are heading toward dramatic transitions. Over the last three years, chief business officers have increasingly agreed that higher education is in financial crisis. According to Inside Higher Education, 71% of Chief Business Officers in 2017 said the media’s reports about the financial state of higher education is accurate, compared to 56% in 2015. The main concern is to raise the school’s revenue. Increasing enrollment still ranks high among administrative goals. However, the percentage dropped 16 points between this year and last because of the dwindling pool of high school students — realistically students aren’t there to recruit.
Specific issues facing colleges
- Decreases in enrollment
The overall number of college-bound students graduating high school is expected to continue to stagnate or decrease until 2030. The Midwest and Northeast will be impacted more than the South and Mountain regions, which could see growth in student populations. What this means for colleges is that many will have a smaller pool of applicants.
Schools will have to rely on recruiting, retention and increasing nontraditional student numbers. Every avenue in which a student, or prospective student, interacts with the school needs to be refined and branded with the values of the institution. Understanding what students like, as well as what they don’t like, can help you know where to focus improvement efforts.
- Limited revenue streams
Decreases in enrollment have a huge impact on a college’s operating budget, but that isn’t the only way revenue can decline. Decreased alumni giving, limited development efforts, discounted tuition, decreased state funding or an unstable political environment all impact the financial state of a college. These pressures have put some schools in danger of closing, a historically rare event.
Finding alternative revenue streams — whether those come from increased international recruitment or offering more transparency about the return on investment students can gain from completing their degree — is a must.
- Student debt
Student loan debt in 2017 has reached $1.3 trillion. Student loans are the second highest form of consumer debt, beating out auto loans and credit card debt. Naturally, students are looking for financial relief anywhere they can get it, but for colleges who are also struggling with their own budgetary concerns, it is hard to provide.
Many schools have turned to inclusive access models to help students save money, and increase the number of students who buy course materials through the school. Offering students more course materials options, such as rental or integrating OER, can save students money and give them the choices they desire.
- Student mental health
Generation Z have grown up in a different world than the previous generation. They tend to have a more pessimistic outlook and may be more predisposed to depression, loneliness and other mental health issues.
Providing strong mental health facilities or outreach on campus can help your school reach these at-risk students.