5 takeaways from a recent survey of 453 enrollment leaders

Faced with new levels and kinds of enrollment risk, admission directors say hitting enrollment goals is harder than ever, reports Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed (IHE).

In 2017, only 34% of institutions met new student enrollment by the May 1 goal date, according to a recent survey conducted by IHE and Gallup.

This year's proportion of institutions meeting student enrollment goals is down three percentage points from last year—and down eight percentage points from 2015, writes Jaschik. And as most institutions depend on student tuition, the enrollment decline can inspire anything from annoyance to a crisis, he notes.

The survey respondents included 453 enrollment leaders. Researchers gathered and analyzed responses on a number of topics about the current climate of admissions and were able to identify 5 key trends in today's college admissions:

Trend 1: Both public and private institutions are facing a decline in student enrollment

According to the survey, the following proportion of enrollment leaders reported meeting enrollment targets by May 1st:

  • Only 22% of public four-year institutions;
  • Just 36% of private four-year institutions;
  • About 59% of public doctoral institutions; and
  • Only 27% of community colleges (although many of these institutions continue recruiting across the summer).

Earlier admission is better—but is regular too late?

Trend 2: Both private and public institutions hope to recruit more underserved students

Researchers asked admissions directors if they plan to increase recruitment efforts for specific student groups. Many respondents said they plan to expand outreach to minority and first-generation students. Below is the public-private split on next year's recruitment efforts:

  • For minority students, a little less than three-quarters of public leaders will increase recruitment efforts, versus two-thirds of their private counterparts;
  • For first-gen students, about 69% of public leaders will increase recruitment efforts, compared with 49% of their private counterparts; and
  • For international students, around 33% of public leaders will increase recruitment efforts, versus 59% of private leaders.

How social media connects underrepresented students to colleges

Trend 3: Private enrollment leaders are more likely to weigh social media evidence in admission decisions

In response to recent headlines about hate speech on social media, researchers asked enrollment leaders what role social media plays in their admission process.

  • A minority of both public (15%) and private (14%) enrollment leaders agree that colleges should check their applicants' social media accounts; but
  • If an admissions office becomes aware of bigotry on a student's social media account, more than half of private enrollment leaders believe those findings should factor into admission decisions, versus 27% of their public counterparts.

Also see: 6 ways to jump-start emerging enrollment managers

Trend 4: The majority of public and private admissions directors agree that colleges must change the public perception of higher education

The survey asked respondents to rate their agreement on statements about the public's view of higher education.

  • Over 90% of both public and private enrollment leaders agree that colleges need to better explain the value of a college degree; and
  • More than half of both public (61%) and private (66%) admissions directors agree that public discussion of student debt discourages students from pursuing higher education.

Trend 5: Public enrollment leaders are more likely to support free tuition programs

Below is the public-private split on free tuition programs for public institutions.

  • Half of public leaders agree that free tuition is "a good idea to pursue," versus just 26% of private leaders;
  • More than 80% of private leaders view free tuition as  threat to private education, compared with about 38% of their public counterparts; and
  • A majority of both public (64%) and private (86%) admissions directors agree that free tuition proponents are not considering "long-term financing issues."

(Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 9/13).

Also see: How to NOT achieve the enrollment results you want


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